Repo Commentary-7/25/19

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I sang my 147th MLB game last Wednesday night in Jupiter, FL. I’m also still singing Elvis gigs with my 6-part harmony group, Generation Gap, all over Palm Beach County. I had an uneventful birthday on 7/11, the same birthday as my former partner at Cantor Fitzgerald, Tom Sapio. Happy Birthday, Tom!

I have also been interviewing for jobs, finished with the memoir I ghost-wrote (I think it’s finished), chaired a conference (although I just missed a lot of you at Crane’s), and wrote some articles. I am still looking to re-enter the Securities Financing Market, so if you hear of anything… I will likely be up in NYC to meet with folks in mid-August.

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 trying to make it more frequently than monthly.

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.

07/25 Holidays or Events:

• Carousel Day or Merry-Go-Round Day
• Hire a Veteran Day
• National Chili Dog Day
• National Intern Day
• National Refreshment Day
• International Red Shoe Day
• Thread the Needle Day
• Video Games Day
• Culinarians Day
• Feast of Saint James (Western Christianity)
• National Hot Fudge Sundae Day
• National Refreshment Day
• National Wine and Cheese Day
• Health and Happiness with Hypnosis Day
• Guanacaste Day (Costa Rica)
• National Baha’I Day (Jamaica)
• National Day of Galicia (Galicia)
• Puerto Rico Constitution Day (Puerto Rico)
• Republic Day (Tunisia)

Some Famous People Born 07/25 in History:

• 1109-Afonso I, King of Portugal
• 1165-Ibn Arabi, Andalusian Sufi mystic, poet, and philosopher
• 1394-James I, King of Scotland
• 1556-George Peele, English translator, poet and dramatist
• 1806-Maria Weston Chapman, American abolitionist
• 1894-Walter Brennan, American actor
• 1923-Estelle Getty, American actress
• 1934-Don Ellis, American trumpet player and composer
• 1935-Adnan Khashoggi, Saudi Arabian businessman
• 1941-Nate Thurmond, American basketball player
• 1954-Walter Payton, American football player, one of the greatest, and my favorite
• 1955-Iman, Somalian-English model and actress
• 1962-Doug Drabek, American baseball player and coach
• 1967-Matt LeBlanc, American actor and producer
• 1971-Billy Wagner, American baseball player and coach

This Day in History (7/25):

• 306-Constantine I is proclaimed Roman emperor by his troops
• 315-the Arch of Constantine is completed near the Colosseum in Rome to commemorate Constantine I’s victory over Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge
• 677-climax of the Siege of Thessalonica by the Slavs in a 3-day assault on the city walls
• 864-the Edict of Pistres of Charles the Bald orders defensive measures against the Vikings
• 1137-Eleanor of Aquitaine married Prince Louis, later King Louis VII of France, in Bordeux
• 1139-Battle of Ourique: the Almoravids, led by Ali ibn Yusuf, are defeated by Prince Afonso Henriques who is proclaimed King of Portugal
• 1261-the city of Constantinople is recaptured by Nicaean forces under the command of Alexios Strategopoulos, re-establishing the Byzantine Empire
• 1467-the Battle of Molinella: the first battle in Italy in which firearms are used extensively
• 1547-Henry II of France is crowned
• 1554-Mary I marries Philip II of Spain at Winchester Cathedral
• 1593-Henry IV of France publicly converts from Protestantism to Roman Catholicism
• 1603-James VI of Scotland is crowned King of England (James I of England), bringing the Kingdom of England and Kingdom of Scotland into personal union. Political union would occur in 1707
• 1609-the English ship Sea Venture, en route to Virginia, is deliberately driven ashore during a storm at Bermuda to prevent its sinking; the survivors go on to found a new colony there
• 1755-British governor Charles Lawrence and the Nova Scotia Council order the deportation of the Acadians
• 1759-French and Indian War: in Western New York, British forces captured Fort Niagara from the French, who subsequently abandon Fort Rouille
• 1783-American Revolutionary War: the war’s last action, the Siege of Cuddalore, is ended by a preliminary peace agreement
• 1788-Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart completes his Symphony No.40 in G minor
• 1799-At Abu Qir in Egypt, Napoleon I of France defeats 10,000 Ottomans under Mustafa Pasha
• 1814-War of 1812: an American attack on Canada is repulsed
• 1824-Costa Rica annexes Guanacaste from Nicaragua
• 1868-the Wyoming Territory is established
• 1894-the First Sino-Japanese War begins when the Japanese fire upon a Chinese warship
• 1898-in the Puerto Rico Campaign, the United States seizes Puerto Rico from Spain
• 1908-Ajinomoto is founded. Kikunae Ikeda of the Tokyo Imperial University discovers that a key ingredient in kombu soup stock is monosodium glutamate (MSG), and patents the process for manufacturing it.
• 1909-Louis Beiriot makes the first flight across the English Channel in a heavier-than-air machine from Calais to Dover, England in 37 minutes
• 1917-Sir Robert Borden introduces the first income tax in Canada as a “temporary” measure
• 1934-the Nazis assassinate Austrian Chancellor Engelbert Dolifuss in a failed coup attempt
• 1940-General Henri Guisan orders the Swiss Army to resist German invasion and makes surrender illegal
• 1942-the Norwegian Manifesto calls for nonviolent resistance to the German occupation
• 1943-WWII: Benito Mussolini is forced out of office by the Grand Council of Fascism and is replaced by Pietro Badoglio
• 1944-WWII: Operation Spring is one of the bloodiest days for the First Canadian Army during the war
• 1946-Nuclear weapons testing: Operation Crossroads: an atomic bomb is detonated underwater in the lagoon of Bikini Atoll
• 1956-45 miles south of Nantucket Island, the Italian ocean liner SS Andrea Doria collides with the MS Stockholm in heavy fog and sinks the next day, killing 51
• 1957-the Republic of Tunisia is proclaimed, under President Habib Bourguiba
• 1965-Bob Dylan goes electric at the Newport Folk Festival, signaling a major change in folk and rock music
• 1973-Soviet Mars 5 probe is launched
• 1976-Viking I takes the famous Face on Mars photo
• 1978-birth of Louise Joy Brown, the first human to have been born after conception by in vitro fertilization (IVF)
• 1979-another section of the Sinai Peninsula is peacefully returned by Israel to Egypt
• 1993-Israel launches a massive attack against Lebanon in what the Israelis call Operation Accountability, and the Lebanese call the Seven-Day War
• 1994-Israel and Jordan sign the Washington Declaration that formally ends the state of war that had existed between the nations since 1948
• 1996-in a military coup in Burundi, Pierre Buyoya deposes Sylvestre Ntibantunganya
• 2000-Concorde Air France Flight 4590 crashes at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, killing 113 people
• 2007-Pratibha Patil is sworn in as India’s first female president
• 2010-WikiLeaks publishes classified documents about the War in Afghanistan, one of the largest leaks in US military history

Daily Weird Facts:

A Finnish soldier fought for Finland (against the Russians) earned the Mannerheim Cross, the Nazis (against the Russians), and the first US Army Special Forces. He escaped a British POW camp, earned a Bronze Star, five Purple Hearts, and disappeared in Vietnam in 1965. In 1999, his remains were found and identified. He had died on a Special Forces military mission when his helicopter crashed. His name was Lauri Torni, and later Larry Thorne. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Daily Affirmation/Thought/Pun/Quote:

“If she’s amazing, she won’t be easy. If she’s easy, she won’t be amazing. If she’s worth it, you won’t give up. If you give up, you’re not worthy…Truth is, everybody is going to hurt you; you just gotta find the ones worth suffering for.”—Bob Marley

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
$63.28/barrel on 5/17
$54.07/barrel on 6/18
$55.96/barrel on 7/24

President Trump’s verbal war (so far) with Iran continues to have a direct impact on oil prices. As the sanctions against countries purchasing oil from Iran has increased the volatility of the price of oil.

The price of gasoline at my new West Palm Beach station has risen again in the last week to $2.49/gallon. Most of the other stations in the area are 20-40 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
102.59 on 6/18
102.43 on 7/24

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
06/18 at $1.1825
07/24 at $1.1740

One British Pound 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
06/18 at $1.3157
07/24 at $1.3070

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
1.2740 on 6/18
1.2480 on 7/24

Gold closed on 6/18 at $1350.10/ounce. Yesterday, it closed at $1425.60/ounce.

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
$9,088.59 on 06/18
$11,919.30 on 06/25
$9,790.37 on 07/24

After rebounding dramatically since the beginning of the year, although certainly not to its $19,000 highs, bitcoin has reversed over the last month.

Global Financial News:

Boris Johnson won the election for British PM. Now, he has 100 days to deal with Brexit. He has already demanded the removal of the Irish backstop for the Brexit deal. The IMF sent a warning about that, that a no-deal Brexit will pose a threat to world economy.UBS earnings were less than expected, driven by under-performance in main businesses. The IMF has said that trade tensions are driving a slowdown in global trade and downgraded global economic forecast to 3.2% growth this year, down .1% from April. The first tech stocks to launch on Shanghai Star market enjoyed an unprecedented rally. Bank of America and UBS have joined other banks’ fundraising work in the private company deals. ECB’s Draghi has hinted at new measures to help the Eurozone economy. He said a “significant degree” of monetary stimulus is necessary and that risks surrounding Eurozone growth remain tilted to the downside. German manufacturing reports industry is way down. Hedge fund Caxton is moving its headquarters to London. The Turkish central bank cut its main lending rate by 4.25%, as the new governor takes control. German bond yields bounced off record lows, after Draghi said recession risk is “pretty low”. Greek 10-year yield fell under 2% for the first time ever, actually below the US 10-year yield. What financial crisis? JGBs rose as the weak Eurozone data supported global monetary easing. During a hearing of the House Financial Services Committee, some Representatives expressed concern that the merger of BB&T and SunTrust banks will create a “mega-bank” that may be difficult to regulate and could pose a systemic risk to the financial system. Bank officials deflected the concerns and highlighted the benefits. Internal government watchdogs are warning of the FDIC and Federal Reserve cybersecurity shortcomings, which could lead to theft of sensitive financial data. An ECB survey shows that many Eurozone banks have boosted criteria for most business and personal loans during Q2. However, standards for approving mortgages remained unchanged from Q1. Bank of America said that the public and investors are losing confidence in the Bank of England’s economic forecasts, which could lead to more erratic monetary policy. Santander Bank hired Timothy Wennes, formerly West Coast president of MUFG Union Bank, as its new president and CEO of the US division. The House of Representatives has approved a bill to rescue multiemployer pension funds close to collapse. US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that with at least six financial regulators looking at the risks of cryptoassets, additional rules are likely to emerge. Face-to-face US/Chinese trade talks will resume next week in Shanghai. Christine Lagarde is still awaiting confirmation to replace Mario Draghi. A Federal Reserve study finds that ownership of leveraged loans is concentrated among banks, S&Ls, mutual funds, and insurance companies. WesBanco, Inc. and Maryland-based Old Line Bancshares, Inc. are merging in a $500 million deal expected to close in 2-3 years.

US Market News:

The Dow Jones (global stocks as well) was happy with most earnings reports, monetary policy outlook, and US budget progress. The central bank meetings are causing some defensive positioning in US Treasuries. Kyle Bass says you’re going to see softness in the US economy in 2020.

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
26,465.54 on 6/18/19
27,269.97 on 7/24/19 down 79 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
06/18/19 at 2,917.75
07/24/19 at 3,019.56 new all-time 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
06/18/19 at 7,953.68
07/24/19 at 8,321.50 new all-time high

US Treasury yields have been in free-fall since hitting highs in October 2018.

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%
06/18/19 at 1.86%
07/24/19 at 1.83%

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%
06/18/19 at 1.80%
07/24/19 at 1.79%

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%
06/18/19 at 1.83%
07/24/19 at 1.82%

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%
06/18/19 at 1.93%
07/24/19 at 1.93%

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%
06/18/19 at 2.06%
07/24/19 at 2.05%

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%
06/18/19 at 2.55%
07/24/19 at 2.58%

“The Municipal-Bond Market Is Now Controlled by Just a Few Firms: There has been a mammoth shift in the $4 trillion muni market over the past decade as investors have increasingly used professional money managers to invest in both high- and low-grade state and local government debt. Mutual-fund holdings of municipal bonds now total $738.6 billion, according to Federal Reserve data, a more than 50% increase since 2009.” Wall Street Journal

Housing News:

Almost 40% of home in the US are mortgage-free. HUD has suspended the down payment assistance rule change for FHA loans “until further notice”, on Tuesday. New Home Sales in June rose, after two months of declines. But the 7% gain in June came with further downward revisions to the three prior months. Meanwhile, MBA purchase applications fell for the second consecutive week. There are now mortgages available for borrowers without credit scores.

Repo News:

I hear there may be some upcoming consolidation in the financial industry conference space, as some firms are trimming sponsorship and there are a lot of conferences. Meanwhile, there has been considerable movement in the all-to-all, peer-to-peer, CCP, electronic platform space for Repo & Securities Lending. One firm has been going gangbusters on Total Return Swaps for their electronic platform, another has had to lay of some people, another electronic platform shut down its London effort and trimmed US marketing, Sponsored Repo is reportedly running into a constraint of now some $100 billion in CCLF charges, while one electronic platform is rumored to be having issues, and another one has suddenly popped up for collateralized loans. Meanwhile, peer-to-peer between the insurance companies and money funds is increasing, and peer-to-peer within the pension fund peer group and within the hedge fund peer group may be gaining some traction. Month-end repo rates have been hairy lately, as has liquidity, and unusual setting of SOFR rates to the dealer offer-side of triparty repo. This month-end is currently trading 2.82/2.80. That is a lot of funding pressure for a July month-end, much more than over the last few years, some 32bp, according to Scott Skyrm.

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 ALL 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 dealers’ repo matched book came at a couple of costs, first, the bid/offer spread that went to the dealers, which has been volatile but certainly widened since the Financial Crisis, and second, the defaults of the Financial Crisis, which not only subjected clients to dealer defaults and wider spreads, but in many cases directly impacted clients by making them suddenly the outright traders of repo collateral. Some of that collateral, on top of it, was very illiquid. Not knowing who the other clients were on the other side of the dealers’ repo matched book, and who could potentially bring down those intermediary dealers was costly for many clients. Clearly, with that pipeline of is intermediation becoming severely crimped by post-Financial Crisis regulatory reforms, consolidation and bankruptcies, and the resulting drop of about 60% in balance sheets (which has recovered partially with new entrants to the market and international banks’ increases due to regulatory arbitrage) being used for broker/dealer respective repo matched books, new pathways/pipelines needed to be explored for cash provider and collateral provider clients. My former baby, AVM’s Direct Repo™, was the first of one of such pathways, over 10 years ago. Since then, many other liquidity 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 Agented repo through seclending agents and some prime brokers to buyside clients, direct lending from beneficial owners to hedge funds who are short via their agents, 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, BNY DBVX, State Street’s Cash Cross), FICC’s sponsored repo and cleared repo products for certain sectors of the buyside into that CCP, dealer to dealer and some clients electronic trading platforms (like GLMX, HQLA, and Tradeweb), other Repo and/or Seclending CCPs (particularly in Europe, like Eurex, LCH, OCC, CME, etc.), total return swaps platforms (like WeMatch.com), and collateralized loan exchanges like AFX/CBOE. There have still been other firms that have created some king of product that mimics a repo, but yet doesn’t show up on dealers’ balance sheets (so helps them), and/or provides better credit counterparties (so helps clients), and can take many forms. I believe this overall evolution will continue and eventually we will see all of these pathways used in some part, 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 maybe for only select ‘platinum’ clients and may come at a higher bid/offer spread or in specific, more profitable products/securities, as other market observers/experts have said.

Securities Finance Industry Conferences:
 

• Deutsche Borse/Clearstream 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 held its 3rd annual Investors in Securities Lending Conference in NYC on 5/2-5/3.
• GFOA held its 113th annual conference in Los Angeles on 5/19-5/22.
• Securities Lending Times held its annual Securities Finance Technology Symposium in London on 5/9.
• IMN held 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.
• ISLA held its Securities Finance and Collateral Management conference in Madrid this week.
• Crane Data held its annual Money Fund Symposium on 6/24-6/26 in Boston.
• Hedge Fund Association is holding its Rooftop Social in NYC on 6/27.
• 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.
• IMN will hold its annual European Securities Finance conference in London on 9/25-9/26.
• 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 Conference on Securities Finance and Collateral Management in Boca Raton, FL on October 14-17, as they just announced.
• American Financial Professionals (AFP) will hold its annual conference in Boston, MA on 10/20-10/23.
• Finadium will hold its Rates & Repo conference in New York on 11/4
• 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: 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.

In December, at the FOMC meeting, 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.

Now, folks in the market, over the last couple of months, have been talking more about when the Federal Reserve is going to CUT interest rates, rather than RAISE them again. The WSJ reports that investment banks remain skeptical that the Federal Reserve will reduce interest rates this summer, despite the markets having priced one 25bp cut in. Up to now, the Fed was just changing the IOER relative to the target Fed Funds rate, to smooth these episodes. But, IOER used to sit 25bp above the upper rate of the range and now it sits 15bp below that upper rate. Many people believe or hope that the FOMC will vote for a rate cut at next week’s meeting. TIAA Bank EVP John Pataky said a rate cut at the meeting next week might boost the housing market.

Earthquakes and Volcanoes:

Latest strong earthquakes (4.5 magnitude and above):

7/22 4.2 16km S of Twentynine Palms, CA
7/19 5.3 3km NNW of Magoula, Greece
7/16 4.3 12km WSW of Byron, CA
7/16 5.7 36km SSE of Kendalrejo, Indonesia
7/14 7.3 102km NNE of Laiwui, Indonesia
7/14 6.6 202km W of Broome, Australia
7/12 4.9 8km ENE of Ridgecrest, CA
7/12 4.6 Three Lakes, WA
7/08 5.7 28km SE of Masjed Soleyman, Iran
7/07 6.9 132km WSW of Kota Ternate, Indonesia
7/06 7.1 Ridgecrest, CA

Weather:

The Atlantic Hurricane Season began 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 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.

There is currently no tropical cyclone activity expected during the next 48 hours in Atlantic. Storm 3 just passed by the East coast of Florida with no impact. In the Eastern North Pacific, Tropical Depression Dalila continues to weaken.

As for the weather, the US has been dealing with huge storms, flooding, hail, tornadoes, and very whacky temperatures. The Northeast and Mid-Atlantic and parts of the Midwest had triple digit heat indices, followed by cold rain and winds. A tornado hit Cape Cod and tore off a hotel roof. When I lived in Massachusetts 1960-1978, there was only one tornado and it was in Nashua, NH. Meanwhile, here in Florida, where we expect heat and humidity, May was an all-time record hot May for the state, and was followed by a record hot June for the state. July could follow suit, as the heat index here seems to have been 100-110 every day, and the temperature in Palm Beach County has been between 90-99 degrees. You can’t do anything strenuous outside for more than 2 hours, without risking heat stroke or heat exhaustion. The good news is that for the first time in years, the state does not have a drought, as we have had heavy thunderstorms every afternoon. There is a critical fire weather risk forecast by the National Weather Service across portions of the Northern Rockies. Cooler temperatures have slid down over parts of the country from Alaska. Internationally, Paris, London, and Berlin could see record high temperatures today, as the summer extreme heat wave continues to roast the area. Earlier this Summer, Paris hit a all-time record high of 114.6 degrees F. Today, Paris will be hotter than Cairo, Egypt. London is expected to be about 105 degrees F.

Sports News:

MLB:

Is was hard to get into baseball, with the NBA and NHL FINALS still going, almost to mid-June. Now, that that’s over, we can focus on baseball (and soccer, golf, and tennis). Of course, the other issue is that the MLB season goes from March until November and 162 regular season games, so you still won’t miss much. The MLB regular season began 3/28 this year and the 2018 World Series Champion Red Sox did not start well, in last place and have been struggling. In a way, their rival Yankees are burning up the field and the standings this year, just the way the Red Sox did last year. The Red Sox begin a critical 14 games stretch with first place Yankees and second place Rays (they won the first 2 games and lost the third on Wednesday). We are about 96-102 games in of the 162-game regular season, so people are starting to watch the Standings and the Wild Card races. Let’s take a look: AL East-Yankees are solidly in first place, despite their rash of hitter injuries, 9 ½ games ahead of the Rays and 10 ½ games ahead of the Red Sox. The Orioles are no longer the worst team in baseball though. AL Central-Twins are still clinging to first place, 3 games ahead of the Indians, but everyone else has fallen off the charts. The Tigers now have the worst MLB record at 30-66. AL West-Astros are in first place, 6 ½ games ahead of the A’s. NL East-the surprising Braves (without the big splashes their rivals made in free agency) are in first place, 5 games ahead of the Nationals and 6 ½ games ahead of the faltering Phillies. NL Central-Cubs are in first place, but tenuously ½ game ahead of the Cardinals and 2 games ahead of the Brewers. The Reds and Pirates are also still within striking distance. NL West-Dodgers are in first place by a mile, 14 ½ games ahead of Giants and 15 ½ games ahead of Diamondbacks.

The Cubs optioned Addison Russell to Triple-A. They also demoted Carl Edwards Jr. Yankees Gary Sanchez has returned to IL with groin strain. Tigers’ asking price for pitcher Matthew Boyd could prevent a deal. A Sandy Koufax statue is part of a $100 million Dodger Stadium renovation. Struggling Triple-A Tim Tebow has been placed on IL with a cut hand. The Dodgers are among teams interested in Orioles reliever Mychal Givens. They need bullpen help, as do the Red Sox (after losing their 2 closers Joe Kelly and Craig Kimbrel), and the Indians and Braves. The Angels celebrated “genuine and caring” Tyler Skaggs at memorial service. A fan walked onto the field at PNC Park and tried to shake a Phillies’ player’s hand. Astros’ Yordan Alvarez is giving the Astros a historic lift in his MLB career start. He had 35 RBIs through his first 30 games, better than anyone else in baseball history. He also has 11 HRs this season.

Two baseball teams, the White Sox (Guaranteed Rate Field) and the Astros, are intending to put up more measures to protect fans from serious injury at games, particularly extending safety netting to the foul poles. MLB in 2005 recommended that teams extend netting to the end of the dugouts by 2018, and all 30 teams complied. There have been many fans in recent years that have been injured or killed by foul balls or flying bats. Most recently, a young girl was struck by a foul in May in Houston, just beyond the dugout, and a woman was hit by a foul on 6/10 in Chicago and died. In 2017, three different fans were hit by a broken bat, 105-mph foul ball, and another 105-mph foul ball, all at Yankee Stadium.

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 Open (we call it the British Open) has ended and an Irishman, Shane Lowery, won the tournament, pretty much wire-to-wire, on Ireland soil at Royal Portrush. Sergio Garcia threw his driver at his caddie on Sunday. Jason Day, Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson face a potential million dollar shootout. This week, the PGA is at TPC Southwind, at the WGC FedEx St. Jude Invitational. A 6-year-old Utah girl died after being struck in the head by her father’s errant tee shot.

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. NFL training camps have opened for the 100th NFL season. The NFLPA has sent players a “work stoppage ready” plan after CBA talks. Panthers’ Cam Newton should be “ready to roll” for camp, per coach Ron Rivera. Browns’ Duke Johnson won’t be traded, per Freddie Kitchens. Chargers’ Melvin Gordon won’t report to training camp reportedly. Packers to release Mike Daniels at DT. Jaguars’ Jalen Ramsey arrived at training camp in armored money truck. Falcons are optimistic about Julio Jones contract talks. The Cowboys released Allen Hurns.

Although the NFL season was over, the shortest season of the big 4 team sports in the US, the NFL had 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 hoped 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. The NFL then shut down the league just 6 games into the season and stopped paying players. Here were your AAF teams:

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. There is talk that Johnny Manziel will play in XFL.

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. It ended in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals on 6/12, when the St. Louis Blues beat my Bruins 4-3 in the Finals. The Blues were in last place in their division in January and wound up winning it all. We are in the middle of free agency now. Off the list is one of the biggest names, Erik Karlsson, who signed an 8-year/$92 million mega-contract to stay with the Sharks. The Flyers also did a trade-and-sign to get Kevin Hayes. Here is the list of the top 25 unrestricted free agents, their 2018-2019 team, and who signed and who hasn’t:

1_ Artemi Panarin, Blue Jackets (signed by Rangers 7years/$81.5 million)
2_ Matt Duchene, Senators/Blue Jackets (signed by Predators 7years/$56 million)
3_ Sergei Bobrovsky, Blue Jackets (signed by Panthers 7years/$70 million)
4_ Joe Pavelski, Sharks (signed by Stars 3 years/$21 million)
5_ Corey Perry, Ducks (signed by Stars 1 year/$1.5 million)
6_ Robin Lehner, Islanders (signed by Blackhawks 1 year/$5 million)
7_ Wayne Simmonds, Flyers/Predators (signed by Devils 1year/$5 million)
8_ Mats Zuccarello, Rangers/Stars (signed by Wild 5years/$30 million)
9_ Marcus Johansson, Devils/Bruins (signed by Sabres 2years/$9 million)
10_ Gustav Nyquist, Red Wings/Sharks (signed by Blue Jackets 4years/$22 million)
11_ Tyler Myers, Jets (signed by Canucks 5years/$30 million)
12_ Jake Gardner, Maple Leafs (UNSIGNED)
13_ Anders Lee, Islanders (Islanders 7years/$49 million)
14_ Ryan Dzingel, Senators/Blue Jackets (Hurricanes 2years/$6.75 million)
15_ Anton Stralman, Lightning (Panthers 3years/$16.5 million)
16_ Michael Ferland, Hurricanes (Canucks 4years/$14 million)
17_ Patrick Marleau, Maple Leafs (UNSIGNED)
18_ Semyon Varlamov, Avalanche (Islanders 4years)
19_ Joe Thornton, Sharks (UNSIGNED)
20_ Petr Mrazek, Hurricanes (Hurricanes 2years/$6.25 million)
21_ Brett Connolly, Capitals (Panthers 4 years/$13 million)
22_ Brandon Tanev, Jets (Pengurins 6years/$21 million)
23_ Brian Boyle, Devils/Predators (UNSIGNED)
24_ Cam Talbot, Oilers/Flyers (Flames 1year/$2.75 million)
25_ Justin Williams, Hurricanes (UNSIGNED)
There are a lot of unsigned restricted free agents, like Mitch Marner, Mikko Rantanen, Brayden Point, Patrick Laine, Kyle Connor, Brock Boeser, Matthew Tkachuk, etc. Seattle NHL franchise has named HOF Ron Francis as GM. Capitals Alex Ovechkin will travel to China as NHL ambassador. The Blue rewarded backup goalie Jordan Binnington with a 2-year deal after winning the Stanley Cup.

NBA:

The NBA season officially began on 10/3 as well. It officially ended with the underdogs, the Toronto Raptors ousting the favorite Golden State Warriors in six games. Since then, trades and free agent signings and broken contracts have been dominating the sports newswires. I had speculated in the Repo Commentary last year that Duke star Zion Williamson’s blowout of his Nike sneaker, which led to a knee injury, was going to have a major impact on Nike and the other sports shoe companies. Now that Zion has become a Pelican in the NBA Draft, on Tuesday, he finally announced that he had signed an endorsement deal with Jordan Brand, believed to be worth about $1 billion. The brand’s founder is Michael Jordan and the brand is owned by Nike Inc., but has morphed into a distinct brand since its creation in 1984. It is the most lucrative endorsement deal for a rookie ever in NBA history. Steve Kerr has called out the Lakers for recruiting Anthony Davis, the new habit of superstars getting other superstars to join their team to make it unstoppable, saying “it’s bad for the league.”. Kevin Love is the latest NBA star to withdraw from Team USA, before the FIBA World Cup pool and 2020 Summer Olympics. Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Bradley Beal, Zion Williamson, and Tobias Harris pulled out of Team USA before that. The Lakers are reportedly keeping a roster spot open for free agent Andre Iguodala. The Celtics ‘quickly’ rejected an offer for Gordon Hayward. Celtics’ asking price for Jasyon Tatum is reportedly “insane.” Marcus Morris pulled out of an agreement with Spurs and signed with the Knicks. Tim Duncan is returning to Spurs as assistant coach. The Bucks signed Kyle Korver to 1-year deal. The Wizards are offering Bradley Beal an $111 million max extension. The Wizards have also picked Tommy Sheppard as GM and added Sashi Brown to the front office. The NBA is investigating this summers free agent frenzy. The big winners in free agency and the offseason were the Clippers, Nets, and Lakers.

Olympics:

The hype for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo has officially begun. You may have already heard that there will be some new sports added and some sports returning. Many USA Olympic stars will be returning, including the World Cup Champion USA Women’s soccer team.

Tennis:

Wimbledon ended with a surprise on the Women’s side and a record-amazing match on the Men’s side. Serena Williams was upset by Simona Halep in the Final, who outplayed her in every aspect. Then, on Sunday, I watched an amazing 5-set tiebreaker that went a record 4 hours and 57 minutes (for a Wimbledon men’s final), between Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, that was epic! Djokovic won the first set in a tiebreaker, was crushed in the second set 6-1, won the 3rd set in a tiebreaker, lost the 4th set 6-4, then won the first ever fifth set tiebreaker, after nearly losing on two championship points! It was Djokovic’s 5th trophy at the All England Club. It was also Djokovic’s 14th major, as he chases that record. John Isner has inked the first professional tennis CBD endorsement deal with Defy sports drink. Currently, in the tennis rankings that are being targeted for revamping by the ATP and WTA tours, the No.1 is Djokovic, the No.2 is Nadal, and No.3 is Federer. Had Federer beaten Djokovic in the Wimbledon Final, he would have moved to No.2 ahead of Nadal.

Fighting:

28-year-old Russian boxer Maxim Dadashev has died from brain injuries suffered in a fight with Subriel Matias.

Horse Racing:

Los Angeles could soon be the first major city to ban horse racing. The Breeders Cup will be at Santa Anita Park 11/1 and 11/2.

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. Here is the schedule of races for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup in 2019 and the results:

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, Coca-Cola 600-won by Martin Truex Jr.
6/2 Pocono, Pocono 400-won by Kyle Busch
6/9 Michigan, Firekeepers Casino 400-won by Joey Logano
6/23 Sonoma, Save Mart 350-won by Martin Truex Jr.
6/30 Chicago, Camping World 400-won by Alex Bowman
7/7 Daytona, Coke Zero 400-won by Austin Haley
7/13 Kentucky, Quaker State 400-won by Kurt Busch
7/21 New Hampshire, Foxwoods Resort Casino 301-won by Kevin Harvick
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 began with F1 Car Launch Dates for the various teams from 2/12 through 2/15 for Renault, Racing Point, McLaren, and Ferrari. That was followed by 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 and results (it might be easier to just say which races were not won by Lewis Hamilton):

3/17 Australia Grand Prix in Melbourne-won by V. Bottas
3/31 Bahrain Grand Prix in Sakhir-won by Lewis Hamilton
4/14 China Grand Prix in Shanghai (this will be the 1000th Grand Prix)-won by Lewis Hamilton
4/28 Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku-won by V. Bottas
5/12 Spain Grand Prix in Barcelona-won by Lewis Hamilton
5/26 Monaco Grand Prix in Monaco-won by Lewis Hamilton
6/9 Canada Grand Prix in Montreal-won by Lewis Hamilton
6/23 France Grand Prix in Le Castellet-won by Lewis Hamilton
6/30 Austria Grand Prix in Spielberg-won by Max Verstappen
7/14 Great Britain Grand Prix in Silverstone-won by Lewis Hamilton
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

Here is the IndyCar Racing circuit and its 2019 calendar and results (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-Josef Newgarden
3/24 Circuit of the Americas-Colton Herta
4/7 Grand Prix of Alabama-Takuma Sato
4/14 Grand Prix at Long Beach-Alexander Rossi
5/11 Grand Prix of Indianapolis-Simon Pagenaud
5/26 Indianapolis 500-Simon Pagenaud
6/1 Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Race 1-Josef Newgarden
6/1 Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Race 2-Scott Dixon
6/8 Texas Grand Prix-Josef Newgarden
6/23 Road America-Alexander Rossi
7/14 Honda Indy Toronto-Simon Pagenaud
7/20 Iowa 300-Josef Newgarden
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:

Not only has peer-to-peer Repo been a hot topic of mine and the industry, but peer-to-peer parking has now become a thing. I if someone pays a weekly, monthly, or annual fee for a parking space, they can rent it out to others when not using it. Sort of Airbnb for parking. Outside Magazine says that fewer kids are now riding bicycles, missing valuable life lessons. Harley-Davidson had to reduce its export forecast, due to the impact of tariff increases. One area of employment that has declined, despite overall increases in jobs in the US, is the railway industry. The parents of a toddler who fell to her death from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship are blaming the company for their daughter’s death. In North Carolina, a 37-year-old father of 6 died after an “intense ocean wave” hit him, breaking his neck, in what authorities are calling a “freak accident”. His family followed his wishes and donated his organs to 55 people. A GoFundMe campaign has since raised more than $160,000 for the family. Another 35-year-old father, recently relocated to NC from Detroit, with his wife and 7 children, drowned Sunday at Wrightsville Beach, as he tired to save two of his children from rough waters while walking on a submerged jetty. He jumped in and managed to save one child, went back for the second and he and the second child went under. The child was rescued and survived. It’s very strange to see 2 similar beach deaths in NC, as well as the previous 3 shark attacks there. USA Today reports that officials are trying to determine where the next deadly wildfires will strike, and of the small communities across 11 states, more than 526 have a higher wildlife hazard potential than Paradise, CA. In Paradise, CA, 85 people died and nearly 19,000 buildings were destroyed in California’s deadliest wildfire in its history, the Camp Fire. Pacific Standard online reports that there will be fewer firefighters fighting fires this year. The truck driver responsible for the deaths of 7 ex-Marine motorcyclists last month, when he crossed a double-yellow line in rural NH, has been charged. Now the trucking company he worked for is being investigated. He was on his third day of working for the company and had been charged with drunken-driving in CT the month before. Ford’s electric F-150 towed a million pounds in a publicity stunt. Tuesday, a tornado ripped off the roof of a Cape Cod hotel. Not typical for the Northeast to see tornadoes. 35 passengers were injured on an Air Canada flight to Australia, due to severe turbulence. The plane was a Boeing 777-200. This follows last week’s news that an Air Canada traveler claimed to have woke up on a “freezing cold,” “pitch black” and empty plane as it sat on the tarmac near the hangar. Somehow, the crew missed that she was still on the plane asleep. On Southwest, a mother had to pay $75 to have her toddler sit with her. Southwest has updated its safety cards to avoid the Max 8 airplane confusion. Southwest has also just pulled out of Newark Airport due to 737 Max groundings. Beijing Auto has bought a stake in Daimler. TSA PreCheck may be coming to a festival or ballpark near you soon. In the meantime, TSA alerts travelers that some 45,000 TSA PreCheck memberships expire in February. “Jurassic World-The Ride” has arrived at Universal-Hollywood’s them park. Disney World Resorts is now offering mermaid school. A sky-high observation deck is being built in NYC. A Florida federal appeals court has now ruled that a lawsuit against Royal Caribbean can move forward over allegations that in 2015, a teenage ship passenger was plied with alcohol and then gang-raped in a cabin on one of its ships. 24/7 magazine has listed the 20 largest cruise ships in the world (based on maximum non-crew passengers they can accommodate):

20. MSC Fantasia-3,274, launched 2008
19. World Dream-3,348, launched 2017
18. Majestic Princess-3,560, launched 2017
17. Carnival Dream-3,646, launched 2009
16. Britannia-3,647, launched 2015
15. Carnival Breeze-3,690, launched 2012
14. Carnival Vista-3,934, launched 2016
13. Norwegian Bliss-4,004, launched 2018
12. MSC Meraviglia-4,500, launched 2017
11. Freedom of the Seas-4,515, launched 2006
10. Independence of the Seas-4,560, launched 2008
9. Ovation of the Seas-4,905, launched 2016
8. Costa Diadema-4,947, launched 2014
7. Costa Venezia-5,100, launched 2019
6. MSC Seaview-5,179, launched 2018
5. AIDAnova-5,200, launched 2018
4. Spectrum of the Seas-5,622, launched 2019
3. MSC Bellissima-5,686, launched 2019
2. Symphony of the Seas-6,680, launched 2018
1. Harmony of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas, and Allure of the Seas (all tied)-6,780, launched 2016

Ah, Florida is paradise, although you have to overlook the sweltering heat, the hurricane potential, the shark attacks, the lightning strikes, the gators and crocodiles, bears and panthers, Burmese pythons and 5 indigenous poisonous snakes, poisonous spiders, Red Tide and Blue Green Algae, and now flesh-eating bacteria. A Georgia man was hospitalized this month after contracting a flesh-eating bacteria vacationing in Panama City, FL. In June, a 77-year-old Florida woman died from a flesh-eating bacteria she contracted at Coquina Beach on Anna Maria Island in Florida. Also in June, a 12-year-old Indiana girl contracted a flesh-eating bacteria on a family vacation in Destin, FL. All 3 cases come after an alarming report published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, which suggested a flesh-eating bacteria called Vibrio vulnificus may be spreading to regions non-endemic to the microorganism due to unusually warm water. Atlantic-side Florida beach water temperature currently is between 82-85 degrees, very warm. The bacteria has an extremely high mortality rate, and must be accurately diagnosed, followed by rapid antibiotic administration and prompt surgery. The disease can be spread through seawater or undercooked seafood, usually enters through an open wound or scratch, and presents early symptoms of fever, dizziness or nausea, soon after an injury. The Environment America Research and Policy Center report rated the dirtiest beaches in 29 coastal and Great Lakes states. They specifically looked at number of days that bacteria counts exceeded EPA standards in 2018 (not at trash and debris). According to EARPC, these were the dirtiest (most bacteria days in 2018) beaches in these states:

ALABAMA
Fairhope Public Beach, Baldwin (21 days)

CALIFORNIA
Inner Cabrillo Beach, Los Angeles (85 days)
Coronado Ave. Beach, Los Angeles (62 days)

CONNECTICUT
Byram Beach (South), Fairfield (6 days)
Byram Beach (North), Fairfield (6 days)

DELAWARE
Slaughter Beach, Sussex (16 days)

FLORIDA
Bayou Texar, Escambia (24 days)
Sanders Beach, Escambia (23 days)
Crandon Park on Key Biscayne, Miami-Dade (17 days)
Bird Key Park, Sarasota (17 days)

GEORGIA
St. Simons Island Lighthouse, Glynn (6 days)

HAWAII
Keehi Lagoon (North), Honolulu (11 days)

ILLINOIS
South Shore Beach, Cook (93 days)
63rd Street Beach, Cook (91 days)
Foster Avenue Beach, Cook (90 days)
Calumet South Beach, Cook (89 days)
Rogers Avenue Park Beach, Cook (89 days)

INDIANA
Jeorse Park Beach I, Lake (40 days)
Jeorse Park Beach II, Lake (38 days)

LOUISIANA
North Beach, Calcasieu (11 days)
Cypremort Point State Park, St. Mary (10 days)
Fontainbleau State Park, St. Tammany (10 days)

MAINE
Goose Rocks Beach-Site 5, York (14 days)
Goose Rocks Beach-Site 1, York (9 days)

MARYLAND
Camp Pecometh, Kent (9 days)

MASSACHUSETTS
Nahant Bay at Eastern Ave, Essex (39 days)

MICHIGAN
St. Clair Shores Memorial Park Beach, Macomb (26 days)

MINNESOTA
New Duluth Boat Club Landing, St. Louis (16 days)

MISSISSIPPI
Gulfport East Beach, Harrison (44 days)

NEW HAMPSHIRE
State Beach-Left, Rockingham (5 days)

NEW JERSEY
Berkeley Township/Beachwood Beach West, Ocean (14 days)

NEW YORK
Tanner Park, Suffolk (48 days)
Woodlawn Beach State Park, Erie (47 days)

NORTH CAROLINA
Sound access at the intersection of E.Main Street/Tooley Street, Belhaven, Beaufort (11 days)

OHIO
Bay View West, Erie (48 days)
Maumee Bay State Park-Inland, Lucas (43 days)

OREGON
Sunset Bay State Park Beach/Big Creek, Coos (11 days)

PENNSYLVANIA
Beach 11 West in Thompson Bay, Erie (17 days)
Beach 11 East in Thompson Bay, Erie (17 days)

RHODE ISLAND
Easton’s Beach, Newport (10 days)

SOUTH CAROLINA
Withers Swash, Horry (32 days)
Myrtle Beach at 24th Avenue N, Horry (30 days)

TEXAS
Cole Park-Site 3, Nueces (52 days)
Ropes Park-Site 2, Nueces (43 days)

VIRGINIA
North Community Beach, Norfolk City (7 days)

WASHINGTON
Sooes Beach, Clallam (7 days)

WISCONSIN
Cupertino Park, Milwaukee (40 days)

Health News:

Researchers of a new study show that they found structural changes in the brains of diplomats who had served in Cuba compared with a similar control group, and the diplomats showed damage to multiple parts of the brain, commonly associated with concussion or mild traumatic brain injuries. This is part of the investigation into the allegations that the US Embassy in Havana, Cuba was submitted to constant “sonic attacks,” during 2016 and 2017. There were a variety of major changes in the brain of all 40 patients, including differences in volume of white matter and imaging differences in the cerebellum. The diplomats previously reported that they had suffered problems with coordination, balance, equilibrium, dysfunction in eye movement, nausea, dizziness, and memory problems. There is also skepticism of the “sonic attack” theory among other scientists, who debunk the creation of a sonic weapon, microwaves, or infection. New research has found that millions of US adults (including me) that are currently taking an aspirin a day under the mistaken impression it will help their heart, may be doing something more dangerous. Healthcare providers do recommend the practice to some of their patients, but no longer recommend daily use of aspirin to all of their patients, because taking aspirin daily can also increase the risk of bleeding and other cardiovascular issues. That change occurred after 3 studies in 2018 which showed that aspirin isn’t always beneficial for our health. The current American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology guidelines explicitly state that adults older than 70 who haven’t had a heart attack and people who have a higher bleeding risk shouldn’t take aspirin. Doctors now believe that the first prenatal visit should involve a Hepatitis B test, to identify the infection early. Researchers say taking leftover antibiotics or medication purchased online can actually make an infection worse. More women are reportedly using cannabis while pregnant, which is worrying some health experts. New research out of the University of Pittsburgh found that even after a decade of effective treatment, HIV cells can hide in spinal fluid. Experts say the increasing antibiotic resistance of urinary tract infections is becoming a serious public health issue. Researchers say that low iron levels can cause anemia, but high iron levels, while boosting heart health, can also increase stroke risk. Researchers believe that they can catch autism symptoms in babies before their first birthday, by using an eye-tracking technique for early diagnosis.

Animal News:

Llamas are becoming popular guests/photo props at weddings. In Yellowstone National Park, a few days ago, a 9-year-old girl from Florida (and her family) ignored signs posted everywhere that warn people to stay at least 75-100 feet away from all wildlife, and suffered the consequences. She was an estimated 5-10 feet away from a full-grown male bison, which then turned on her, ran her down, and tossed her in the air with his horns, flipping her in mid-air about 15 feet high. She was lucky to suffer no major injuries. Last year, a woman who got too close to a bison in the park wound up being gored but survived. People don’t realize that the two-ton animal can jump 6 feet high and charge at 30 mph. They also don’t give much warning when they are agitated. A wasp spray has led to 3 deaths in West Virginia, after being used as an alternative form of methamphetamine. There are half as many African lions than there were 25 years ago. Although the great white shark is considered at the apex of marine predators, scientists now believe that Orcas (Killer Whales) may actually rule the oceans, as they have been observed on several occasions attacking and eating great white sharks. Great white shark carcasses have been washing up in South Africa and sightings have been made of Orcas attacking great white sharks and eating their livers. Also, the mere presence of Orcas scares great white sharks away from the elephant seal colonies in the Farallon Islands, which benefits the seals, a staple of the great white sharks. Shockingly, after a 1997 attack by Orcas on 5 great white sharks, the entire great white shark population, about 100 animals, skipped their annual feast on seals at the Farallon Islands the following year. Now, here’s the weird part, the Orcas have somehow honed this feeding behavior to perfection, as they may almost a perfect surgical slice between the pectoral fins of the shark and suck out the shark’s liver, leaving the rest of the carcass intact. Goats can perceive each other’s emotions from their voices. Masai giraffes have been declared endangered, as the population in Kenya and Tanzania has declined by nearly 50% in the last 30 years due to poaching and land encroachment.

I’m running this story again, in case you missed it the first time, and then I’ll remove it. Okay, I’m not usually an alarmist, and I know that shark attacks on humans were down in 2018 (66 confirmed unprovoked) from 2017 (84 such incidents). I know that more people die taking selfies than by shark attacks. Since 1959, you are 6 times more likely to die of a lightning strike than a shark attack. There are more than double the number of fatalities from alligator attacks than from shark attacks. I think I read that more people die from having vending machines fall on them than by shark attacks. But, the recent spate of attacks and sightings has been, for want of a better word, alarming. It started with Cape Cod reporting many great white sharks sighted near beaches, because the seal population has exploded. Unfortunately, that’s where they decided to make the fictional town in the movie JAWS. Then, action moved to Florida, where helicopters filmed the annual migration of about 250 black tip sharks off of Broward County and Palm Beach County beaches, as they move up the coast. Mind you, the water temperature here, because of the record land temperatures is suddenly 84 degrees, very hospitable for sharks. Then the shark-watching agency announced that of the sharks they tagged and track, a couple dozen large great white sharks, tiger sharks, bull sharks, and hammerheads are off both coasts of Florida. Then, North Carolina. North Carolina beaches average 2 shark attacks per year, and we saw three in a span of 2 weeks. Despite all the attacks and sightings, it is rare for there to be a human fatality involved with a shark (unprovoked). But, on Tuesday, a 21-year-old girl vacationing in the Bahamas from California, was killed when she and her mother were snorkeling in a common snorkeling area, and attacked by 3 sharks. Shark attacks in the Bahamas are “extremely rare”, according to a marine biologist on ABC News. Typically, experts say that sharks attack humans unprovoked because they get confused by scuba suits, splashing, or silhouette that resembles a seal or turtle. Experts say they don’t really have any interest in humans. However, in this case, it sounds like the 3 sharks hunted the girl. My guess, and I’m no expert, is that the sharks were the very aggressive bull sharks. Annually, the global average is 6 fatalities per year. The fatal shark attack last year off of Cape Cod was the first in Massachusetts since 1936. I just watched a video of a 15-foot great white shark filmed in just 3 feet of water off the coast of Mexico in 2017. The best source of information on worldwide shark attacks is the International Shark Attack File (ISAF) which is part of the Florida Museum of University of Florida.

So, it bears repeating, no matter where you are, in California, North Carolina, Cape Cod, the Gulf of Mexico, the Dead Sea, the Mediterranean, the Bahamas, etc.:

• Swim in groups (probably more than 2, as having the mother there did not help this girl)
• Do not wear shiny jewelry
• Do not splash unnecessarily
• If snorkeling or diving, have a spotter
• Do not swim off any beaches near seals
• Do not swim near or with bait fish, which you can spot where birds are diving
• Do not swim at any beaches with posted purple flag with picture of a shark
• Stay close to shore
• Avoid being in the water at dusk or dawn, feeding times for sharks
• Avoid being in the water during darkness
• Do not enter the water if bleeding in any way, as shark’s olfactory ability is astounding
• Avoid waters with effluents or sewage
• If porpoises are present, that does not mean there aren’t sharks as well, as they feed on similar bait fish
• Avoid bright color clothing, as sharks see contrast particularly well
• Do not allow pets in the water because of their erratic splashing
• Exercise caution swimming in areas between sandbars or near steep drop-offs, as those are favorite hangouts for sharks
Okay, ISAF suggest the following if attacked by a shark:
• Be proactive, hit the shark on the nose, which will temporarily curtail attack and may allow you to get out of the water
• Repeatedly hit the shark on the nose, which unfortunately will become increasingly less effective
• If bitten, claw at its eyes or gill openings, two sensitive areas
• Never act passively, “as sharks respect size and power”

Entertainment News:

Quartz is now writing what I’ve been saying for years, that “Hollywood has hit a creative brick wall”. It has been churning out successful franchise sequels and prequels and spinoffs, or remakes. But, suddenly, blockbuster franchises are “in flux”, such as Avengers, Men In Black, Fast And Furious, James Bond, and even Star Wars, in which they are either ending, indefinitely pausing, or dealing with creative problems. Hollywood desperately needs fresh content for the public. They are running out of comic books to trot out as films. Naysayers say that there is little motivation for movie companies to produce original stories when the old stuff is creating so much profit, in some cases 50-70% of firm’s expenses. Supermodel Liya Kebede’s brand Lemlem is offering Ethiopian craftsmanship that has become very popular, a sustainable approach, while sponsoring her foundation for African women. The Bachelor TV franchise is going to air its first same-sex romance. R.Kelly rep has resigned after a shocking interview. The trailer has been released for the movie in which Tom Hanks plays Mister Rogers.

Hollywood’s (and Wall Street’s) billionaire friend and Palm Beach and NYC resident, Jeffrey Epstein, was denied bond, as a ‘flight risk’. More allegations have arisen, following the charges of sex trafficking. Deutsche Bank reportedly uncovered suspicious transactions in which Epstein moved money out of the US and reported those transactions to a watchdog Federal agency. Epstein had been a longtime client of JPMorgan’s private-banking division from the late 1990s until about 2013, according to the NY Times. He had pleaded guilty to state prostitution charges in 2008. Now, he is being accused of operating a sex-trafficking ring involving dozens of victims, some as young as 14-years-old. There may be other charges coming. Huffington Post reports that Epstein’s New Mexico ranch, known as the Zorro Ranch, has also been linked to sex trafficking. LATEST UPDATE: last night Epstein was found curled up in his jail cell in a fetal position with marks on his neck. Prison guards are not sure whether they were self-inflicted or he had been attacked, but as a precaution, they have put him on suicide watch.

Bindi Irwin is engaged to Chandler Powell. I think Bindi is the late Steve Irwin’s daughter. Lisa Vanderpump has officially quit the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and also did not show up for the 3-part finale. It’s all over some story she leaked to Radar Online about one of the women returning an adopted dog to a shelter, which Lisa denies. She is threatening to take her spinoff Vanderpump Rules to another network, leaving Bravo. Jennifer Lopez celebrated her 50th birthday (around the same time as my birthday) with boyfriend Alex Rodriquez. The years-long feud between Tyra Banks and Naomi Campbell has reignited. The late Robin Williams’ youngest son got married on his father’s birthday. Kim Kardashian’s photographer has been accused of sexual misconduct. Darn, I was trying to get through one Repo Commentary without any Kardashian news! The two Little Big Lies women who bribed colleges to admit their children may face jail time. Britney Spears has sparked engagement rumors, after wearing a ring at a premiere. Taylor Swift has dropped a new song, “The Archer”. Adam Levine and Behati Prinsloo returned to Mexico for their 5-year wedding anniversary. Demi Moore is releasing her memoir. The opening for ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD, with Brad Pitt and Leonardo di Caprio is getting a lot of hype and rave reviews. It turns out that Quentin Tarantino considered having Tom Cruise play Brad Pitt’s part. Wesley Snipes says he is fine and “it’s all good” about Marvel rebooting the BLADE franchise and having Mahershala Ali taking his part. Valerie Harper’s husband says he won’t put her in Hospice care despite doctors’ advice.

It would have been another disappointing weekend for Hollywood at the box office, if it hadn’t been for another Disney film. It was the first weekend of the last six that managed to top the same weekend of last year. THE LION KING remake with lifelike animals and special effects (sort of both live-action and animated), topped the weekend box office with a record $185 million, surpassing the total gross for the same weekend last year all on its own. Disney had other good news too, as AVENGERS: ENDGAME finally surpassed AVATAR to become the highest grossing worldwide release of all-time. THE LION KING set the record for highest opening weekend for the month of July in history and was the second largest opening of the year so far and seventh largest all-time. The debut was also the largest ever for a PG-rated film. If you were to consider it an “animated film”, then it is the largest opening for an animated film ever, topping INCREDIBLES 2 ($182.6 million). Disney refers to THE LION KING as “Live Action Reimaginings” which somehow sounds like one of the parts of their theme parks. Internationally, this LION KING has taken in another $269 million so far. Okay, enough about the LION KING for now. No.2 at the box-office was SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME, which took in $21 million (total now $320 million), in its 3rd week. No.3 at the box-office was TOY STORY 4, with $14.6 million (total now $375 million and globally $860 million), in its 5th week. It is now the 5th highest worldwide release for Pixar all-time. No.4 at the box office was CRAWL, which made only $6 million, in its 2nd week. No.5 at the box office was YESTERDAY, which made just over $5 million, in its 4th week.

Opening this week in theaters: the widely-anticipated ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD, THE GROUND BENEATH MY FEET, HONEYLAND, MIKE WALLACE IS HERE, SEE YOU SOON, and TEL AVIV ON FIRE. I’m still way behind on movies, although catching up slowly through On Demand. I’m currently confused about whether I’ve seen all the DOG’S purpose, way home, life, etc. franchise.

Ad Age did a study of the last 50 years of successful advertising campaigns and found that the most successful were those that dared to be brave and bold.

Technology & Space News:

Riviera Beach, FL, which is adjacent to West Palm Beach, FL and I can see out my window, two weeks ago had a massive cyber attack on the city’s computer systems and decided to pay a $600,000 ransom to get control back of its computer systems. This week, the city was just hacked again. We just celebrated the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11’s landing on the Moon and Neil Armstrong’s famous one small step and one giant leap. I had to go back to a YouTube video of astronaut Buzz Aldrin punching out a guy who didn’t believe he walked on the Moon and called him “a liar, coward and thief.” Microsoft had impressive earnings and revenue in Q4, announced last week. However, a troubling spot in the earnings report was a 10% annual decline in revenue in its gaming business, with Xbox hardware sales plunging 48% annually. They also mentioned that they were feeling the pressure from lower sales of a comparable third-party software title. That title is believed by analysts to be Epic Games’ FORTNITE, which may be seeing its popularity wane and gamers spending less cash in the free-to-play game that was all the rage in recent years. It’s been a rough year for Facebook, as the social media platform was slapped with two massive fines for the breach of its users’ privacy by allowing Cambridge Analytica to access personal information without consent. The fines came from the FTC and the SEC. Speaking of massive settlements, Equifax, due to the massive data breach it suffered in September 2017 that compromised more data than any other data breach in the world (nearly half the population of the United States, 147 million people), since it is the repository for the most sensitive financial information of the public (Social Security numbers, addresses, credit car and driver’s license information, birthdates, etc.), denied any wrongdoing and there was no judgment or finding of wrongdoing, agreed on Monday to pay a $575-$700 million settlement. The settlement is to compensate US victims of hackers who stole the data from Equifax customers and was negotiated with the FTC. Payments to customers include covering costs to recover from the security breach, the theft of their identity, unauthorized charges to their accounts, and the cost of protecting themselves from future identity theft. The settlement is a little complicated and requires customers to do some work, as it will include a $300 million fund to compensate, $175 million to state and districts affected, $100 million penalty to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and possibly another $125 million if the $300 million isn’t enough. Customers could share in the settlement with free credit-monitoring, identity-theft protection services, cash payments, legal fees, free help recovering from identity theft, or free credit reports for 10 years. A former Equifax executive was sentenced to 4 months in prison for insider trading after the data breach. After the breach, the GAO discovered that 4 US agencies don’t properly verify your data. The EU is urging an alliance with the US to counter Chinese technology dominance. France is planning to use lasers to blind enemy satellites. Tesla posted worse than expected losses. I saw an article that Florida is considering charging owners of hybrid and electric cars a surcharge for using Florida’s roads and not paying their share through gasoline taxes, as they consume less gasoline. That’s crazy! So, people who are doing the right thing by the environment and leaving a smaller carbon footprint are going to be penalized for doing the right thing, AFTER they spent the money for those cars? I guess the state has felt the less infrastructure tax revenue in gasoline sales, and they claim that the infrastructure is a fixed cost that all are using. That’s why they have toll roads. In order to charge people who bought those cars, without toll roads or a way to determine mileage used on Florida roads, they are going to have to charge flat fees for owners of those types of cars, which really doesn’t count usage at all. That’s not fair. Also, it’s not fair for people who bought those cars to save money on gasoline to suddenly have to pay a portion of what they saved for having bought those cars. Dr. Dre (and others) sold Beats to Apple for $600 million. They were burning through startup capital. INSEAD’s annual Global Innovation Index ranks Switzerland as the most innovative country in the world. Sweden, the US, the Netherlands and the UK round out the top five. The FTC announced that it was fining Facebook $5 billion and forcing the social media giant to use new management protocols. There is a 3-part series on PBS called “Ancient Skies” that goes into how humans have viewed space since ancient times. Cybercrime group FIN8 is using new malware, Badhatch, to penetrate networks and scrape credit card information. Badhatch is launched with phishing emails delivering a Microsoft Word document with scripts that install a back door for malware.

US News:

The US debt just hit a record $22 trillion. In June 2018, China owned $1.18 trillion of the US debt and Japan owned $1.03 trillion, about one-third of foreign holdings. President Trump announced that he has struck a Federal budget deal with Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats that would raise Federal spending by $320 billion. Mark Esper was confirmed at US Secretary of Defense. A Department of Justice letter has warned Robert Mueller not to stray from his 448-page Russian election interference report’s written conclusions at his 5-hours of testimony and Q&A in front of 2 House of Representatives committees on Wednesday. A body was found behind a walk-in cooler at a Council Bluffs, Iowa supermarket and it turned out to be an employee who had vanished 10 years ago. He is believed to have fallen from the top of the freezer 12 feet and gotten wedged in an 18-inch gap between the wall and the back of the freezer, near the motors which were very loud. If you thought it would be easy to figure out how much an FBI agent makes, you were wrong. There are 15 grades in the General Schedule and 10 steps within each grade. 16 US Marines were arrested on Thursday for alleged human smuggling and drug charges.

International News:

Iran appears to be forcing things militarily, as it captured 18 men who it says were CIA spys working in Iran and says some or all may be executed, and its commandos captured a British oil tanker, which was simply sailing in international waters. Elsewhere, South Korean jets fire shots at Russian military aircraft. This aerial attack follows the first joint Chinese-Russian long-range air patrol over Asia. Electricity is slowly returning to Venezuela, after a major blackout. The Maduro’s government naturally blamed an “electromagnetic attack” on a dam for the outage. Pressure for change is building in Germany, according to FT. They also say that Syrians in Lebanon are facing mounting hostility. The Governor of Puerto Rico is under major pressure from the public to resign, after a public march of some 1.5 million residents, following reports of widespread corruption in his administration. Ukraine has detained a Russian tanker involved in a naval clash.

Florida:

I am usually singing a National Anthem and doing an Elvis gig each week here in Palm Beach County, FL. If you are interested in seeing more famous bands or solos in concert than my Generation Gap or Elvis Presley performances, there are many acts coming to Florida, perhaps when you will be visiting:

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-6/19/19

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I sang my 145th MLB game Thursday night in West Palm Beach. I was also able to interview for jobs, edit the memoir I’ve been ghost-writing, chair a conference, and write some articles. I am still looking to re-enter the Securities Financing Market, so if you hear of anything…

The Repo Commentary was on hiatus for a bit (since 5/17/19). One of the hardest issues in journalism, as a columnist and I were discussing just last week, is when to take the snapshot. Since my Repo Commentary is about a lot of general news, I want to make it the most accurate and most up-to-date information available. The conundrum is that the process of writing takes some time, during which the news or ideas that I am writing about change or evolve. So, you wind up stopping the process, researching the newer news, and editing your piece to include that newer news. But, as you are in that process, other news changes too, maybe even more important news. You could keep updating your piece an infinite number of times, maybe never even be able to punish it. So, you have to pick a window, a snapshot or cutoff day or time. In my case, I have to also resist that ‘trying to catch you up on what happened the last time I wrote’ temptation, which would make the process much longer and make my info much more dated. I have to assume that you have been keeping up yourselves, even without the help of the Repo Commentary. And, just because I have been busy with some other writing and job hunting and interviews, don’t think I haven’t been keeping up with our market. Because I am constantly speaking to potential employers, to customers, and to industry media (probably more than I did when I was selling my product), I have kept up with much of the developments and rumors in the market and may actually know more about what’s going on now than I did then. I actually started this Repo Commentary 5/17, but have come back to it at least 4 times and been pulled away, and have updated it today, 6/18 and 6/19.

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 at least each Friday or Monday.

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.

06/19 Holidays or Events:

• Day of the Independent Hungary
• Feast of Forest (Palawan)
• Juneteenth
• Labour Day (Trinidad and Tobago)
• Laguna Day (Laguna)
• Never Again Day (Uruguay)
• International World Sickle Cell Day
• Garfield the Cat Day
• National Eat an Oreo Day
• National Martini Day
• National Pets in Film Day
• National FreeBSD Day
• National Watch Day
• World Sauntering Day

Worth noting, Friday, 6/14, was not only Flag Day in the United States (when we adopted our official stars and stripes), but also the 244th Birthday of the US Army, and President Trump’s birthday.

Some Famous People Born 06/19 in History:

• 1301-Prince Morikuni-shogun of Japan
• 1566-James VI and I of the United Kingdom
• 1623-Blaise Pascal-French mathematician and physicist
• 1793-Joseph Earl Sheffield-American businessman and philanthropist
• 1816-William H. Webb-American shipbuilder and philanthropist, founder of the Webb Institute
• 1833-Mary Tenney Gray-American editorial writer, club-woman, philanthropist, and suffragette
• 1843-Mary Sibbet Copley-American philanthropist
• 1877-Charles Coburn-American actor
• 1883-Gladys Mills Phipps, American horse breeder
• 1897-Moe Howard, American comedian (Three Stooges)
• 1902-Guy Lombardo, Canadian-American violinist and bandleader
• 1903-Lou Gehrig, American baseball player
• 1922-Aage Bohr, Danish physicist and academic
• 1928-Tommy DeVito, American singer and guitarist (The Four Seasons)
• 1928-Nancy Marchand, Amerian actress
• 1930-Gena Rowlands, American actress
• 1947-Salman Rushdie, Indian-English novelist and essayist
• 1947-John Ralston Saul, Canadian philosopher and author
• 1948-Phylicia Rashad, American actress
• 1950-Ann Wilson, American singer-songwriter and musician (Heart)
• 1954-Lou Pearlman, American music producer and fraudster
• 1954-Kathleen Turner, American actress
• 1962-Paula Abdul, American singer-songwriter, dancer, actress
• 1972-Brian McBride, American soccer player and coach
• 1972-Robin Tunney, American actress
• 1975-Anthony Parker, American basketball player
• 1976-Anita Wilson, American singer-songwriter and producer
• 1978-Dirk Nowitzki, German basketball player
• 1978-Zoe Saldana, American actress
• 1983-Macklemore, American rapper
• 1988-Jacob deGrom, American baseball player

This Day in History (6/19):

• 325-the original Nicene Creed was adopted at the First Council of Nicaea.
• 1179-the Norwegian Battle of Kalvskinnet outside Nidaros. Earl Erling Skakke is killed and the battle changes the tide of the civil wars.
• 1279-King Louis IX of France orders all Jews found in public without an identifying yellow badge to be fined ten livres of silver.
• 1306-the Earl of Pembroke’s army defeats Bruce’s Scottish army at the Battle of Methven.
• 1586-English colonists leave Roanoke Island, after failing to establish England’s first permanent settlement in North America.
• 1846-the first officially recorded, organized baseball game is played under Alexander Cartwright’s rules on Hoboken, NJ’s Elysian Fields with the New York Base Ball Club defeating the Knickerbockers 23-1. Cartwright umpired.
• 1850-Princess Louise of the Netherlands marries Crown Prince Karl of Sweden-Norway.
• 1862-the US Congress prohibits slavery in United States territories, nullifying Dred Scott v. Sandford.
• 1865-over two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, slaves in Galveston, TX are finally informed of their freedom. The anniversary is still officially celebrated in Texas and 41 other contiguous states as Juneteenth.
• 1867-Maximilian I of the Second Mexican Empire is executed by firing squad in Queretaro.
• 1875-the Herzegovinian rebellion against the Ottoman Empire begins.
• 1903-Benito Mussolini, then a radical Socialist, is arrested by Bern police for advocating a violent general strike.
• 1910-the first Father’s Day is celebrated in Spokane, WA.
• 1915-the USS Arizona is launched. It sank during the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941 and is where the Pearl Harbor memorial museum is located.
• 1934-the Communications Act of 1934 establishes the US FCC.
• 1943-the Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers in the NFL merge for one season, due to player shortages caused by WWII.
• 1944-WWII: the first day of the Battle of the Philippine Sea.
• 1949-the first ever NASCAR race was held at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
• 1953-Cold War: Julius and Ethel Rosenberg are executed at Sing Sing, in New York.
• 1961-Kuwait declares independence from the United Kingdom.
• 1964-the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is approved after surviving an 83-day filibuster in the US Senate.
• 1978-“Garfield”, holder of the Guinness World Record for the world’s most widely syndicated comic strip, makes its debut.
• 1990-the current international law defending indigenous peoples, Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention 1989, is ratified for the first time by Norway.
• 1990-the Communist party of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic is founded in Moscow.
• 1991-the Soviet occupation of Hungary ends.
• 2007-the al-Khilani Mosque bombing in Baghdad leaves 78 people dead and another 218 injured.
• 2009-mass riots involving over 10,000 people and 10,000 police officers break out in Shishou, China, over the dubious circumstances surrounding the death of a local chef.
• 2009-War in Northwest Pakistan: the Pakistani Armed Forces open Operation Rah-e-Nijat against the Taliban and other Islamist rebels in the South Waziristan area of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
• 2012-WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, requested asylum in London’s Ecuadorian Embassy for fear of extradition to the US after publication of previously classified documents including footage of civilian killings by the US Army.
• 2018-the ten millionth United State Patent is issued.

Daily Weird Facts:

Looking at cute animal pictures at work can make you more productive, a recent study claims. (that’s where my Commentary comes in!)

Daily Affirmation/Thought/Pun/Quote:

“If everybody likes you, you’re pretty dull.”—Bette Davis

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
$63.28/barrel on 5/17
$54.07/barrel on 6/18

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 bringing oil prices down to $54/barrel.

Now, with OPEC having met without Iran, and American foreign policy crises in Venezuela, Iran, and Libya, oil prices have been again surging higher. Ironically, Saudi Arabia needs oil prices to be higher than $80/barrel, in order for it to balance its budget. Despite the rise of renewable energy and natural gas, coal is still king in 18 US state for power and jobs.

The price of gasoline at my new West Palm Beach station has dropped to $2.09/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
102.59 on 6/18

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
06/18 at $1.1825

One British Pound 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
06/18 at $1.3157

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
1.2740 on 6/18

Gold closed on 5/17 at $1275.90/ounce. Yesterday, it closed at $1350.10/ounce.

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
$9,088.59 on 06/18

It has rebounded dramatically, although certainly not to its $19,000 highs.

The federal government on Tuesday reapproved the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, a crude-oil export project that has pitted Alberta against the British Columbia government and oil industry supporters against environmentalists and Indigenous opponents… The Prime Minister said Trans Mountain Corp. told him it expects to begin construction this summer, although government officials said it could take several months for the federally owned company to get the permits and contracts that are needed to begin installing the pipe. The officials were granted anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the issue. The Globe and Mail

“OPEC+ Sets Date for Meeting, Ending a Month of Bickering: OPEC+ agreed to hold its next meeting to discuss oil-output cuts on the first two days of July, resolving a monthlong dispute that highlighted divisions within the group.” Bloomberg

Global Financial News:

Facebook is planning its own currency for more than 2 billion users. European leaders are reacting with alarm to this plan for a cryptocurrency, Libra. France’s FM said Libra must not “become a sovereign currency.” A German member of the European Parliament warned that Facebook could then become a “shadow bank”. Ah, there’s the endearing term I haven’t heard in a while! Bloomberg says that women are hardly represented in the clean energy workforce, despite it having some of the highest-growth industries in the US economy. International Renewable Energy Agency did a study which found that women make up 45% of administrative jobs, but only 28% of engineering and science jobs, a sign of more wage disparity. Bloomberg says that this is another sign that boys, more than girls, are encouraged “to study science, technology and engineering.” Today, the first issue of ISLA Daily came out, also distributed at the ISLA Securities Finance and Collateral Management Conference in Madrid this week. The conference co-chairs are Gilly Meth (my former colleague at Morgan Stanley Europe) and James Templeman. The issue also includes articles by HQLA, DTCC, and Comyno. Huwei is bracing for a $30 billion hit to revenue this year and next, as US sanctions kick in. According to Bloomberg, the Chinese telecom giant is bracing for a 40-60% drop in global smartphone shipments and has canceled the launch of its new laptop, due to US restrictions imposed by the Trump administration. 30 years after going public on the NYSE, Sotheby’s has been privately auctioned for almost $4 billion. It was acquired by BidFair USA, owned by telecoms entrepreneur and art collector, Patrick Drahi. Sotheby’s still ranks No.2 to Christie’s in worldwide revenue. A Bloomberg survey found that almost 50% of students at the top business schools around the world have borrowed at least $100,000 to finance their MBAs. Student loans continue to be the fastest growing segment of consumer debt in the US. In a recent survey, almost 50% of Americans say their financial situation hasn’t improved since the Great Recession. China is rolling out the red carpet for other countries, just as it increases tariffs on US goods. The US and China have reopened trade talks ahead of the G-20 meeting in Japan. There is report this morning that market participants need clarification from US government agencies on the regulatory, tax and accounting treatment of switching existing derivatives contracts from Libor to other interest rate benchmarks. Sovereign bond yields have turned negative and record lows, after the ECB signaled it might cut interest rates at a July policy meeting. The 10-year German bund is already down to -0.32% and the 30-year Swiss bond dropped to below 0%. Volatility for Asian tech stocks has surged by 300%. The SEC is taking public comment on its system for exempting securities from registration and how that system could be improved.

US Market News:

A boom in employee bonuses handed out by some companies in the wake of the 2017 tax cuts appear to have been temporary, according to Labor Department data released yesterday. Employee bonuses contracted 24% in Q1 2019, the most since 2005. One bright spot is that companies increased spending on vacation and other paid time off by 3.3%, the most of any benefit category. This news, along with falling business orders and slower hiring, are making some prognosticators believe that the US economy is cooling and may enter a recession. Another scary sign comes in a survey of Americans, 29% of whom say they have more credit card debt than emergency funds, up 8% from 2018. A recent BOA/Merrill Lynch survey shows fund managers are turning bearish on equities.

5/17 marked 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 struggled in May to recover. But, now it’s back near the September/October highs.

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
26,465.54 on 6/18/19

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
06/18/19 at 2,917.75, now right at the 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
06/18/19 at 7,953.68, right there near that 8/28 high again

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 month, due to more talk of Fed rate CUTS, rather than Fed rate HIKES. What did you guys do to yields? I turn my head away for a month and you took them down 35bp!

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%
06/18/19 at 1.86%

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%
06/18/19 at 1.80%

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%
06/18/19 at 1.83%

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%
06/18/19 at 1.93%

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%
06/18/19 at 2.06%

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%
06/18/19 at 2.55%

Housing News:

US housing starts declined in May, but not by as much as expected. California is in the midst of a housing crisis. Google said it will commit $1 billion to try to provide more affordable housing in the San Francisco Bay Area, where big tech firms have been blamed for putting home prices way out of reach for most people. Zillow says that new low interest rates/mortgage rates (the lowest in about 18 months) could bring buyers back to housing. New federal tax rules are creating an advantage for REITs. Homebuilder sentiment has dipped, despite the increase in demand for single-family homes. Mortgage lender Quicken Loans says it has seen record loan volumes. Housing experts expect remodeling spending to slow. Here’s a sign of the times, as home flippers are hiring Uber and Lyft drivers to scout out potential properties.

Real estate agents in Vancouver have noticed something unusual in the past few weeks. For the first time in recent memory, the number of Hong Kong Chinese attending open-house showings has exceeded that of mainland Chinese buyers, who have been a visible presence in the city’s real estate market over the past decade. The people arriving at home showings in Vancouver offer a vivid example of the global dislocations under way as Hong Kong finds itself newly immersed in fear that its unique status under China’s one-country, two-systems framework is under threat. The Globe and Mail

Repo News:

I hear there may be some upcoming consolidation in the financial industry conference space, as some firms are trimming sponsorship and there are a lot of conferences. Meanwhile, there has been considerable movement in the all-to-all, peer-to-peer, CCP, electronic platform space for Repo & Securities Lending. One firm has been going gangbusters on Total Return Swaps for their electronic platform, another has had to lay of some people, another electronic platform shut down its London effort and trimmed US marketing, Sponsored Repo is reportedly running into a constraint of now some $100 billion in CCLF charges, while one electronic platform is rumored to be having issues, and another one has suddenly popped up for collateralized loans. Meanwhile, peer-to-peer between the insurance companies and money funds is increasing, and peer-to-peer within the pension fund peer group and within the hedge fund peer group may be gaining some traction.

I was honored 6/5/19 by Global Investor/ISF Magazine to be interviewed and included in their massive “Securities Finance Americas Guide 2019” on pages 60-61. Their link is: https://www.globalinvestorgroup.com/articles/3692602/americas-securities-finance-guide-2019. 
I’m fortunate to have been included. I believe they ran an article online about my thoughts also on 6/15/19 on their website.

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. My former baby, 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 Agented repo through seclending agents and now some prime brokers to buyside clients, direct lending from beneficial owners to hedge funds who are short via their agents, 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, BNY DBVX, State Street’s Cash Cross), FICC’s sponsored repo and cleared repo products for certain sectors of the buyside into that CCP, dealer to dealer and some clients electronic trading platforms (like GLMX, HQLA, and Tradeweb), other Repo and/or Seclending CCPs (particularly in Europe, like Eurex, LCH, OCC, CME, etc.), total return swaps platforms (like WeMatch.com), and collateralized loan exchange AFX/CBOE. 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.

Securities Finance Industry Conferences:
 

• Deutsche Borse/Clearstream 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 held its 3rd annual Investors in Securities Lending Conference in NYC on 5/2-5/3.
• GFOA held its 113th annual conference in Los Angeles on 5/19-5/22.
• Securities Lending Times held its annual Securities Finance Technology Symposium in London on 5/9.
• IMN held 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.
• ISLA is holding its Securities Finance and Collateral Management conference in Madrid this week.
• Crane Data will hold its annual Money Fund Symposium on 6/24-6/26 in Boston.
• Hedge Fund Association is holding its Rooftop Social in NYC on 6/27.
• 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 Conference on Securities Finance and Collateral Management in Boca Raton, FL on October 14-17, as they just announced.
• 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 (today), 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 since I last wrote. Now, folks in the market, over the last couple of months, have been talking more about when the Federal Reserve is going to CUT interest rates, rather than RAISE them again. The WSJ reports that investment banks remain skeptical that the Federal Reserve will reduce interest rates this summer, despite the markets having priced one 25bp cut in. We will all be waiting to see what the FOMC does this afternoon and maybe, more importantly, what it says in the press conference. There is talk that we may get more information on plans for a new repo facility, designed to address episodes of upward pressure on the effective Fed Funds rate. Up to now, the Fed was just changing the IOER relative to the target Fed Funds rate, to smooth these episodes. But, IOER used to sit 25bp above the upper rate of the range and now it sits 15bp below that upper rate.

Earthquakes and Volcanoes:

A magnitude 5.8 earthquake struck Sichuan Province near Changning, China on 6/17/19, where the homes are mostly unreinforced brick with mud and adobe block construction. Latest strong earthquakes (4.5 magnitude and above):

5.3 6/18 198km ESE of Tadine, New Caledonia
4.6 6/18 77km W of Nikol’skoye, Russia
5.2 6/18 132km NE of L’Esperance Rock, New Zealand
5.4 6/18 128km E of L’Esperance Rock, New Zealand
4.5 6/18 16km ESE of Pamandzi, Mayotte
4.8 6/18 49km W of Sardinal, Costa Rica
4.9 6/18 48km W of Sardinal, Costa Rica
5.9 6/18 135km ENE of L’Esperance Rock, New Zealand
4.5 6/18 37km NNW of Murakami, Japan
4.9 6/18 267km W of Saumlaki, Indonesia
6.4 6/18 31km WSW of Tsuruoka, Japan
4.7 6/18 SE of Easter Island
4.8 6/18 8km NE of Sambelia, Indonesia
4.9 6/18 255km SSE of L’Esperance Rock, New Zealand
5.5 6/18 South of the Fiji Islands
5.1 6/18 121 ENE of L’Esperance Rock, New Zealand
4.6 6/18 84km WNW of San Antonio de los Cobres, Argentina
5.1 6/18 165km ENE of L’Esperance Rock, New Zealand

Weather:

The Atlantic Hurricane Season began 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 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.

There are currently no tropical cyclone activity expected during the next 48 hours in Atlantic or Pacific. As for the weather, the US has been dealing with huge storms, flooding, hail, tornadoes, and very whacky temperatures. There was snow in Denver in May. The Mid-Atlantic, while I was up in North Carolina, got an unprecedented May heat wave, sending temperatures above 100 degrees in some areas. The threat for severe weather and flash flooding continues for several areas in the US, particularly Kansas, Texas, and the Mid-Atlantic. Since May, Florida has been getting daily rain late in the day and extreme heat and humidity, with temperatures in the 90s and daily heat indices between 100 and 110. The thunderstorms have been intense with many lightning strikes and low lightning. One motorcyclist last week was hit by lightning and killed, while riding on I-95 near West Palm Beach, FL. Also, in WPB, you can read about the giraffes below. Today will likely be the hottest day of the year so far in Oklahoma, NYC, and Chicago.

Sports News:

MLB:

Is was hard to get into baseball, with the NBA and NHL FINALS still going, almost to mid-June. Now, that that’s over, we can focus on baseball (and soccer, golf, and tennis). Of course, the other issue is that the MLB season goes from March until November and 162 regular season games, so you still won’t miss much. 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. They are now both playing above .500, but the Yankees have soared to first place, while the Red Sox seem to be having a hard time catching them. 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 71-74 games in or roughly 45%. Still, there are some trends that are re-emerging and some new surprises due to aggressive free agency work. In the AL East: the Yankees started out rough, lost several key sluggers to injuries, but righted the ship and are in first place, 17 over .500, 1 ½ games ahead the Rays, followed by the Red Sox 5 1/2 games back. The Orioles are a dismal 21-51, 23 ½ games back of the Yanks. In the AL Central: the Twins have tenaciously held on to first place, despite a charge by the Indians, who are 10 games back now and without key ingredients. The White Sox started out strong, but have faded to 12 ½ games back. The cellar here is occupied by the Royals, who are also a stellar 24-48 and 23 ½ games back. In the AL West: the Astros are back in their familiar spot, in first place, leading the resurgent Rangers by 8 ½ games. The A’s, after their super strong start, have faded to 11 games back, and Mariners who started the season on fire, look smoked at 31-45 in the cellar by 18 ½ games. In the NL East: the Phillies free agency and trades seemed to have paid off, as they went from near worst to first, however, they are now 3 games behind the surging Braves, who are 8 1/2 games ahead of the Mets and 9 games ahead of the Nats. The only non-surprise is that the Marlins are in last place, with a 25-45 record and 16 1/2 games back. In the NL Central: the Cubs finally made it to first place, now securing the help of closer ace Craig Kimbrel (formerly of the Red Sox), but then fell a half game behind the red-hot Brewers. The Brewers lead the surging Cardinals by only 2 ½ games, the Reds by 7 games, and the Pirates by 7 ½ games. This is again a close division! Lastly, in the AL West: the Dodgers did a lot of work offseason in trades and free agency, which paid off putting the losing World Series team in 2018 back in first place with a scorching 23 games over .500 best record, 10 games ahead of the Rockies and the Diamondbacks. The Giants are in last place again.

Well, the MLB had their Draft Day. 2019 MLB All-Star Game voting is open. 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. He has decided to take a leave from the team. I fear his playing days are over. He’s had a great, albeit short career, with an MVP, 3 World Series rings, Silver Sluggers, and Gold Gloves, but his body betrayed him. The Nationals made history with 4 consecutive HRs on 7 pitches against the Padres. It was the second time in less than 2 years that the Nationals had done that. It’s only happened 9 times in MLB history and Nats have done it twice. In contrast, to show you how rare it is, there have been 23 perfect games and 15 unassisted triple plays (I just watched a montage of the latter feat). Speaking of HRs, the Twins just clubbed 4 on Sunday, routing the Mariners 12-2, and on pace for the season HR record. The season record, set just last year by the Yankees, is 267 HRs. The Twins are on pace for 316. The Yankees have spoken to the Blue Jays about Marcus Stroman. Red Sox former legend, David Ortiz, was shot in the back during at a bar Sunday night, by a motorcyclist (part of 6 people that allegedly were involved in the assassination attempt), in his home country, the Dominican Republic, and is in stable condition. The bullet did not hit any vital organs, but it did injure his liver and gall bladder and did force him to have surgery on his colon. He is expected to make a “full recovery” and the Red Sox sent down their team plane to pick him up and fly him to Boston for further treatment. David Ortiz’s condition was upgraded to “Good” on Tuesday. Prosecutors are set to reveal the motive and the plot. Nationals ace, Max Scherzer, was taken to the locker room on Tuesday, after bunting a ball off his face in batting practice. Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton has been activated from the DL after a shoulder injury. The MLB Umpires Association has released an bizarre Twitter statement on Padres’ Manny Machado’s one-game suspension, which used 12 different hashtags to protest his contact with an umpire over balls and strikes and violently throwing his bat against the backstop. Somehow, the MLBUA made it “violence in the workplace” and with “absolutely no regard to anyone’s safety.” 36-year-old Edwin Encarnacion made his Yankees debut on Monday night, two days after being traded from the Mariners. The Yankees demoted Clint Frazier to make room. Dallas Keuchel, the Braves new starter, who signed a one-year deal worth $13 million, is expected to start this week, after 8 months on the free-agent market and not appearing in a game since last October for the Astros. Gary Cohen announced his 2,000th Mets TV game. The Nationals say they are not thinking about trade Max Scherzer “right now”. The Cubs are considering opening a sportsbook at Wrigley Field. The Angels are about to activate slugger Justin Upton, who will make his season debut. The Blue Jays hit a season high 5 HRs in 12-0 win over the Astros. Cubs starter Yu Darvish makes his first start at Dodger Stadium since the four losses he pitched in the World Series for the Dodgers and the veteran players are urging the fans to not boo him. Two baseball teams, the White Sox (Guaranteed Rate Field) and the Astros, are intending to put up more measures to protect fans from serious injury at games, particularly extending safety netting to the foul poles. MLB in 2005 recommended that teams extend netting to the end of the dugouts by 2018, and all 30 teams complied. There have been many fans in recent years that have been injured or killed by foul balls or flying bats. Most recently, a young girl was struck by a foul in May in Houston, just beyond the dugout, and a woman was hit by a foul on 6/10 in Chicago and died. In 2017, three different fans were hit by a broken bat, 105-mph foul ball, and another 105-mph foul ball, all at Yankee Stadium.

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:

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 No.6 as he played at the PGA Championship at Bethpage. 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 played just okay at this weekend’s 3rd major, the US Open at Pebble Beach, where his pal, Phil Mickelson, still hasn’t one (the only Major Phil hasn’t won). Brooks Koepka, the defending US Open champion, tried to become the only golfer to win 3 US Opens in a row, and was in the hunt, but came up short to Gary Woodland. Gary put an exclamation point on his victory, by making a long birdie putt on the 18th hole to win by 3 strokes. His caddie, Brennan Little, celebrated his second major win. Also celebrating was his super-fan buddy Amy Bockerstette. In second place in the US Open was Justin Rose. Amateur Viktor Hovland broke Jack Nicklaus’ US Open scoring record as an amateur, with a 4-under total of 280 over 72 holesA record for tour victories with 9.

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. Saints’ Ted Ginn says he will race anyone for $10,000. 49-year-old Brett Favre says he is coming out of retirement and returning to NFL play. Social media isn’t buying it though. He did retire after the 2007 season only to “unretired” and play 3 more seasons, before walking away at age 41. John Fox said the Bears have had the NFL’s worst offseason. Trainer has confirmed that Rams’ Todd Gurley has an ‘arthritic component’ to his injury. QB Josh McCown has retired after 16 NFL seasons and joined ESPN as an analyst. Jaguars fined Telvin Smith $88,000 for missing minicamp. Cowboys’ Rico Gathers has been suspended by the NFL one game for violating its substance abuse policy. Texans ended their pursuit of Nick Caserio and the Patriots dropped their tampering charge. Former NFL player Kellen Winslow II will be retried on 8 charges. Cowboys’ QB Dak Prescott’s agent floated $34 million per year?

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. There is talk that Johnny Manziel will play in XFL.

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. It ended in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals on 6/12, when the St. Louis Blues beat my Boston Bruins 4-1, and 4-3 in the Finals. The Blues were in last place in their division in January and wound up winning it all. There was plenty of controversy and bad referee calls. One game that the Blues won 2-1, had the penalty been called and the obvious goal allowed, would have been 2-1 the other way. But, alas, such is the game. Bruins’ Zdeno Chara took a slapshot off the jaw, breaking it in two places, requiring plates and screws, but still played the next 2 games. Both goaltenders were outstanding and every game was exciting. It was the Blues first Stanley Cup Championship and they hadn’t been in the Cup Finals since being ousted by the Bruins 4-0 in 1970. 41 other pro teams are still looking for their first championships. The Conn Smythe Trophy for MVP of the Playoffs went to Blues’ Ryan O’Reilly, who played with cracked ribs since the first game. Now, we look to the NHL Draft. Meanwhile, there is plenty of trade news and free agency news. The Capitals signed Carl Hagrelin to a 4-year extension. The Ducks hired Dallas Eakins as new head coach. Penguins GM confirms that the team is not shopping Phil Kessel. The Caps sent Matt Niskanen to the Flyers for Radko Gudas. The Sharks signed star Erik Karlsson to an 8-year deal. The Blackhawks acquired Olli Maata from the Penguins for Dominik Kahun. The Kings bought out the contract of defenseman Dion Phaneuf. The Rangers acquired Jacob Trouba from the Jets. He NHL’s free agent period begins on 7/1. Some of the top free agents are: Matthew Tkachuk, Brock Boeser, William Karlsson, Timo Meier, and Kevin Labanc. Blue Jackets hired Rick Nash as special assistant to GM.

NBA:

The NBA season officially began on 10/3 as well. It officially ended with the underdogs, the Toronto Raptors ousting the favorite Golden State Warriors in six games. Although the Warriors had won the championship 3 times in the last 4 years, they were hampered by injuries to Thompson and Durant. The Raptors’ Kawhi Leonard was on fire. He is also now a free agent, expected to return to the Raptors or go to the Clippers. Many people thought that the Lakers would pry Anthony Davis from the Pelicans, and they managed to do it, but at significant cost, in a a blockbuster trade Saturday. After the trade, the Lakers are left with 2 of the top 10 players in the NBA, but not a lot to put a starting five team together. Other notable free agents are Jimmy Butler, Kemba Walker, Kyrie Irving, Bojan Bogdanovic, Danny Green, Darren Collison, DeMarcus Cousins, Derrick Favors, Jeremy Lamb, JJ Redick, Malcolm Brogdon, Marcus Morris, Nikola Mirotic, Patrick Beverley, Paul Millsap, Terrence Ross, Austin Rivers, Carmelo Anthony, Joakim Noah, Justin Holiday, Rajon Rondo, Reggie Bullock, Seth Curry, and Trevor Ariza. Free Agency moratorium ends on 7/6. The Draft is now on peoples’ minds and the Knicks are seriously considering taking Darius Garland over RJ Barrett. He would be the No.3 or No.4 pick. Reportedly, Minnesota, Boston and Chicago are also teams looking at potentially trading up to No.4 to get Garland. The Hawks are interested in trading up for Jarrett Culver. The Knicks already met with Ja Morant, but the Grizzlies have reportedly locked in on Morant at No.2. There are also a lot of trades and trade rumors out there. There’s trade rumors about Rockets’ Chris Paul. Hassan Whiteside is expected to ask Heat to move him. The Wizards are not pursuing Masai Ujiri as president reportedly.

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 completed their unprecedented English version of the Triple Crown by winning the FA Cup Final (or the Cup Final in England) against Watford in the Premier League, 6-0. Two players for Man City scored 2 goals each. The margin of victory tied the record for an FA Cup Final with a match in 1903. The teams had two musicians in each teams’ corners, with Elton John there to root on Watford and Oasis’ Noel Gallagher to root on Man City. Okay, now the world has, or at least I have, turned our focus on the FIFA Women’s World Cup. Obviously, the US Women’s National Soccer team is quite popular, the reigning World Cup champions, with Alex Morgan arguably its biggest star, with 3.25 million Twitter followers. Carli Lloyd was named FIFA Best Women’s Player three years ago. Also, expected to make a huge impact is Julie Ertz a No.6 who debuted 4 years ago at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Team USA made a huge splash by beating Thailand a record 13-0, in their opening match. After then beating Chile 3-0, team USA won their grouping.

Tennis:

After beating Roger Federer in the semis, Rafael Nadal went on to beat Dominic Thiem (who had upset Novak Djokovic in the semis) in the Finals to win his 13th French Open. The clay master was brilliant! The tennis world will now focus on the grass season, leading up to Wimbledon. Perth will host Fed Cup final between Australia and France.

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 wouldn’t run in the 144th Preakness at 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. Maximum Security suffered his second loss of his career Sunday in the Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth Park. The Preakness favorite was currently Improbable. There were 20 horses racing in the Kentucky Derby, but only 13 entered in the Preakness. More controversy followed, as the horse who had been “impeded” by Maximum Security, War of Will, actually won the Preakness. Country House did not compete in the race because of a virus. More drama, as Bodexpress reared at the start and threw his jockey, John Velazquez, from his mount, and then went on to complete the race without a jockey. That brought us to the third leg of the Triple Crown in ho-hum year, the Belmont Stakes. Sir Winston, an 8:1 horse, won the Belmont. Once again, neither Maximum Security nor Country House competed in this race. War of Will did but finished out of the money. The next race is the Royal Ascot this week.

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. 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, Coca-Cola 600-won by Martin Truex Jr.
6/2 Pocono, Pocono 400-won by Kyle Busch
6/9 Michigan, Firekeepers Casino 400-won by Joey Logano
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-won by V. Bottas
3/31 Bahrain Grand Prix in Sakhir-won by L. Hamilton
4/14 China Grand Prix in Shanghai (this will be the 1000th Grand Prix)-won by L. Hamilton
4/28 Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku-won by V. Bottas
5/12 Spain Grand Prix in Barcelona-won by L. Hamilton
5/26 Monaco Grand Prix in Monaco-won by L. Hamilton
6/9 Canada Grand Prix in Montreal-won by L. Hamilton
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 were 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-Josef Newgarden
3/24 Circuit of the Americas-Colton Herta
4/7 Grand Prix of Alabama-Takuma Sato
4/14 Grand Prix at Long Beach-Alexander Rossi
5/11 Grand Prix of Indianapolis-Simon Pagenaud
5/26 Indianapolis 500-Simon Pagenaud
6/1 Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Race 1-Josef Newgarden
6/1 Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Race 2-Scott Dixon
6/8 Texas Grand Prix-Josef Newgarden
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. Greg Norman and his son just opened a water park called “Shark Wake Park 561” adjacent to Okeeheelee Park in West Palm Beach, FL. 10 people were sent to the hospital, after wild turbulence slammed a flight attendant into the plane’s ceiling, on an ALK Airlines B-737 flight over France. Boeing has signed its first deal for the B-737 Max jet since the deadly crashes grounded the plane worldwide. Boeing made the announcement at the Paris Air Show this week. They announced that International Airlines Group, the parent company of British Airways and other carriers, signed a LOI for 200 of the aircraft, which could be worth as much as $24 billion. Ethiopian Airlines had a 737 Max crash in March and another 737 Max, flown by Lion Air, crashed last year in Indonesia. Rival Airbus also announced sales at the show, to IAG for A321XLR jets for Aer Lingus and Iberia, as well as Delta Air Lines, Saudi Arabia Airlines, and Atlantic Airways. By the way, Qatar Airways won best airline in the world for the 5th time, at the Paris Air Show. Qatar is where the next World Cup is supposed to be, but more about that later in the Repo Commentary. Dollywood is completing its long-awaited expansion. Disneyworld has just announced significant increases in prices of annual passes for Florida residents in all categories except the Select category. Ford has revealed the horsepower and torque for its new Mustang Shelby GT500, saying it will be the “most powerful street-legal Ford ever.”

Health News:

The NJ Department of Health has reported another potential measles exposure at Newark Liberty International Airport. Reportedly, an international traveler who has been diagnosed with measles was at the airport on 5/29. The measles outbreak began in October and the CDC says there have already been 1,044 individual cases reported in 28 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.”. A helicopter crashed into a skyscraper in Manhattan last Tuesday in rain and fog, killing one person and burning up. Authorities are trying to figure out what happened and why that helicopter was in Manhattan in a no-fly zone. A 116-year-old Italian great grandmother, who was Europe’s oldest living person, has died. Researchers are saying that 60% of all the plastic ever created in the world is now lying in landfills and other natural surroundings and that only about 9% of it is actually being recycled. I saw this story a couple of weeks ago on TV news and it was alarming how Americans are separating their bottles and boxes for recycling, but those trucks are simply dumping at landfills, because they don’t have the capacity at recycling plants and they don’t have the technology to make the items recyclable (removing caps, labels, etc.). It has been a complete farce pulled on the public. This has led to new scientific research at the molecular level by several labs to create plastics that will biodegrade themselves. That is the opposite mission for plastic, which was originally designed to never break down. In this particular article, it also says that a recent study shows that humans eat a credit card worth of plastic each week!

Animal News:

I was very psyched, after growing up wanting to be a zoologist (then finding out that they make zero money), I got to visit an animal rescue ranch in North Carolina a couple of weeks ago that has jaguars, tigers, lions, cougars, leopards, etc. The lions were lazy in the hot sun, but the tigers were on full display. 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 suggests the number of attacks by Nile crocodiles was between 275 and 745 per year, with about 63% proving fatal. A week after a father saved his daughter’s life off a North Carolina beach by continually punching a shark’s nose to release her leg, another child has been bitten on a North Carolina beach. The doctors think it’s a miracle that the 17-year-old girl survived her attack, although they had to remove one leg above the knee, because her blood loss was so severe. So, there have been 3 shark attacks this month, when NC usually only sees on average 2 shark attacks per year. We are in the middle of shark breeding season, so we are seeing hundreds of blacktip sharks off of Florida, and several tracked hammerheads, tigers, bull sharks, and great whites, as well. The 2018 worldwide total of shark attacks was 66 confirmed, while the average over 2013-2017 was 84 incidents annually. Now, those are “unprovoked shark attacks on humans” per the International Shark Attack File. There were also 34 “provoked attacks on humans”. The 1975 movie JAWS, which ruined my beach going experience forever, was set in a ficticious town of Amity on Cape Cod in Massachusetts (although there is a real town named Amityville in Long Island), but residents of Cape Cod are now learning to deal with a rising population of great white sharks. The reason is that the population of seals is booming there. So, experts advise, do not swim on beaches that are posted with the purple flag and a picture of a shark on it, do not wear shiny jewelry in the water, avoid excessive splashing, swim in groups (not alone), avoid any areas that have seals, and stick close to shore. As people are taking emotional support animals everywhere, many states are cracking down on abusers. Okay, this is odd, an award-winning dairy farm apparently fed dairy cows coffee creamer, which produced tastier milk.

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. Larry King suffered a heart issue but is now recovering. Apparently, I missed an epic battle scene in Game of Thrones. Prince William and Kate Middleton celebrated their 8th wedding anniversary. There also is rumored to be 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 sang the National Anthem at the 2019 Kentucky Derby on 5/4. I didn’t get the call again! That was the last ‘normal’ moment of THAT Kentucky Derby. 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. She is also still on The Talk, rival to The View. 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. Although I never liked Jax, I never liked James even less. Wait, does that make sense? And, wait, new news on Vanderpump Rules, producer Lisa Vanderpump is furious with Andy and Bravo TV and is threatening to take her show to another network. This is all bubbling up from the feud on Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, in which she allegedly sold a story to TMZ about how one of the other wives returned a dog that she had purchased from Lisa’s rescue foundation, which also broke up longtime friendship between Kyle and Lisa and some silly lie-detector test. Lisa Vanderpump has already quit Real Housewives of Beverly Hills over the scandal and all the cast pointing fingers at her. 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. Speaking of the Kardashians, OJ Simpson has just gotten a Twitter account and is controversially sounding off on every topic, including that he never had an affair with mother Kardashian, wife at the time of his late lawyer Robert Kardashian and his wife’s (Nicole Brown Simpson’s) close friend. Okay, that’s now 2 people at least that I think shouldn’t have Twitter accounts! 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. This morning, fashion icon Gloria Vanderbilt died at age 95. 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. Jennifer Morrison has joined “This Is Us”. Nike has 11 of the 15 highest paid endorsement deals in sports. The have just signed LeBron James to a lifetime contract that is worth upwards of $1 billion. But, they don’t have Stephen Curry, although they tried. He did sign with them out of college for 4-years, until 2013. Nike pitched him in 2013 and mispronounced his name in the meeting. During the presentation, one of the Powerpoint slides had Kevin Durant’s name on it, instead of Curry’s.

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.

It was another disappointing weekend for a pair of summer sequels, as MEN IN BLACK INTERNATIONAL and SHAFT failed to meet expectations. MEN IN BLACK INTERNATIONAL opened at No.1, with $30 million (although it cost $110 million to make and was supposed to debut above $50 million); THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS 2 came in No.2, in its second week, with $24.4 million (hitting $92.7 million for a film that cost $80 million to make); No.3 was ALADDIN, with $17.3 million in its fourth week (total now $264 million for a cost of $183 million); No.4 was ROCKETMAN, in its third week, coming in with $9.4 million; and No.5 was DARK PHOENIX, in its second week, taking in $9.3 million. The other major debut, SHAFT, came in No.6 with only $8.9 million, just beating out GODZILLA.

I want to go and see ROCKETMAN, JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 3-PARABELLUM, A DOG’S JOURNEY, and MEN IN BLACK.

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. For that one client who asked, a Tesla uses 18650 cells for power, with each cell being just slightly larger than a AA battery. However, they have double the volume, more than double the output voltage, and 8 times the amperage. Here’s something that puzzles me: my iPhone 8 Plus no longer has a headphone jack (I have to use an adaptor or Bluetooth), but Apple’s iPod touch and MacBook still have headphone jacks.

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, 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.. ICE is averaging only 7,000 deportations per month. Nonprofits are reporting that Americans are less charitable this year. A boom in employee bonuses handed out by some companies in the wake of the 2017 tax cuts appear to have been temporary, according to Labor Department data released yesterday. Employee bonuses contracted 24% in Q1 2019, the most since 2005. One bright spot is that companies increased spending on vacation and other paid time off by 3.3%, the most of any benefit category. The US Air Force has armed bombers with hypersonic missile for the first time.

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. Ironically, Americans make up Mexico’s largest demographic of immigrants. There are fears for Angela Merkel’s health, after she violently shook during a ceremony. Iran is seeking to rally international support against pressure from the US. After year after the US pulled out of the Iran nuclear agreement, the deal itself is at risk of collapse, with the EU caught in the middle. China and North Korea are looking to strengthen ties as Chinese president travels to North Korea, amid US disputes. Boris Johnson is building a lead in his race to be the next UK Prime Minister. There was a massive blackout in Argentina that covered 3 nations. Hong Kong protesters are not happy with their leader’s apology and demand that she quit. Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi, was buried yesterday, after his dramatic collapse and death inside a courtroom. France has detained 1980s soccer great Platini in a probe of the stunning decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. Kazakhstan has now arrested nearly 4,000 protesters.

Florida:

President Trump officially launched his 2020 run for President in Miami last night. 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

Jeff Kidwell in the News-6/5/19

I was honored by Global Investor/ISF Magazine to be interviewed and included in their new print and online “Securities Finance Americas Guide 2019” on pages 60-61.

Their link is https://www.globalinvestorgroup.com/articles/3692602/americas-securities-finance-guide-2019. It’s a great piece, with some very talented experts and writers, and I’m honored/fortunate to have been included.

Jeff Kidwell in the News-6/5/2019

I was honored by Global Investor/ISF Magazine to be interviewed and included in their new print and online “Securities Finance Americas Guide 2019” on pages 60-61.

Their link is https://www.globalinvestorgroup.com/articles/3692602/americas-securities-finance-guide-2019. It’s a great piece, with some very talented experts and writers, and I’m honored/fortunate to have been included.

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

IMG_2806IMG_2826IMG_2825IMG_2824IMG_2819IMG_2817IMG_2832IMG_2831IMG_2829IMG_2828IMG_2827IMG_2841IMG_2838IMG_2837IMG_2836IMG_2835IMG_2862IMG_2849IMG_2848IMG_2847IMG_2845IMG_2861IMG_2856IMG_2852IMG_2851IMG_2869IMG_2868IMG_2866IMG_2864IMG_2863IMG_2874IMG_2873IMG_2872IMG_2871IMG_2870

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