Broker Check

Corona and the Crown

April 07, 2020

There have been an additional 500,000 confirmed cases worldwide since a week ago, for a total of 1.3 Million confirmed cases. About 350,000 in the USA alone with almost 9000 deaths (one third of which are in New York City). While that is frightening indeed, we are getting a clearer view of what the pandemic looks like as interventions (physical distancing, stay-at-home, washing hands) are adopted. In Italy for example the acceleration in the number of deaths has flattened out over the last week[1]. And even in New York there is a hint that the curve may be beginning to flatten[2]. As the pandemic advances westward, we sincerely hope that the aggressive adoption of stay-at-home measures will substantially moderate the impact in our most populous state, California.

On the medical front, there are numerous candidates for treatment currently being tested. These include medicines that are designed to kill the virus (antivirals like Remdesivir), to decrease the deadly inflammatory response in the lungs (Hydroxychloriquine), to keep the virus from penetrating the lung cells (synthetic antibodies), and to transfer immunity directly from those who have recovered (plasma transfusion).[3] For those that are very sick on ventilators the FDA has cleared the treating physicians to use some of these medicines at their discretion even as the clinical trials to prove their effectiveness are as yet incomplete. In parallel, the development and testing of potential vaccines is proceeding at breakneck speed. [4][5]

All kinds of test kits for the coronavirus have been approved as production and distribution is being ramped up rapidly. This mass testing ability will become very important as the number of cases and deaths begin to subside, and we contemplate implementing processes for returning to business as usual.

As the 1st quarter of 2020 ended, all of the backwards-looking economic reports are coming out attesting to the fact that much of the economy is on pause. This is reflected by the volume of unemployment claims, the deep reduction in total business productivity, and the inability of many to pay their rent, mortgage, and utility bills. While these ugly numbers were not un-anticipated actually seeing them brings an emotional response to all those watching the news.

At the same time the government is trying to distribute funds to countless millions of people and businesses, a gargantuan logistical feat that will have its frustrations and inefficiencies. This is in attempt to keep as many people and businesses solvent (for the short term), so that that everyone can re-start immediately when the pandemic subsides.

The markets and investment portfolios have continued to whiplash up and down. And as good and bad news comes out on a daily basis, there will likely be a lot of drastic ups and downs moving forward. As all of you get your statements sometime this month you will inevitably be disappointed at the performance of your portfolios, especially when compared to the relatively steady, uneventful progress during the previous year. It is important that so long as you have sufficient liquidity to ride out the storm you should keep your long-term objective foremost on your mind, rather than act out of panic. As Adam Taback, Deputy CIO (Chief Investment Officer), Wells Fargo Private Bank so aptly admonished in a recent interview "If you sell out now, you would have caught the downside, but you're not going to catch the rebound …"[6]

The decisions we make today will ultimately determine whether we will have a good experience in the long-run or a bad one. This is the time when many will need support to make the right decision for themselves and their families. That is what I do. I am here and available every day.

Will the economy come roaring back fast? Or will it gradually make its way back over a more extended period? Either way, this will pass.

I will leave you with the concluding words of Queen Elizabeth in her rare televised address on Sunday, April 5, 2020

"We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return. We will be with our friends again. We will be our families again. We will Meet again."

Until then, stay health and stay solvent.

The market indexes discussed are unmanaged and generally considered representative of their respective markets. Individuals cannot directly invest in unmanaged indexes. Past performance does not guarantee future results. The return and principal value of investments will fluctuate as market conditions change. When sold, investments may be worth more or less than their original cost.