In the last three weeks, over 15 million people have filed jobless claims. This is sharpest employment loss in history. The unemployment rate will surpass 15% in short order and could even go to 20%+. Optimists say that when the economy re-starts, jobs will return; however, we are concerned that not all jobs will come back right away and employment will take time to recover.
There is an investment adage that says, "Don't fight the Fed." Put simply, when the Fed is providing liquidity to the markets, it should be an overall positive for the stock market, and you should be invested. Historically, this meant investors should watch what the Fed is doing in terms of interest rate policy. Today, with the Fed already hacking the rate back to zero, investors have to look at quantitative easing and it is truly epic.
The novel coronavirus information and number of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases change daily. Here are helpful links and resources for tracking and keeping up-to-date.
It should also be noted that the New York Times has removed the paywall for all coronavirus articles.
The Senate today agreed to a massive $2 trillion stimulus deal (roughly 10% of GDP) to combat the economic fallout from COVID-19. This is a bigger stimulus deal than the Great Recession. Here are some of the highlights:
This week began my family's social distancing, work from home (#WFH), homeschooling experiment. If you're not already doing the same, odds are that you will be soon. Having completed the prerequisite reading (Social Distancing: This is Not a Snow Day,) my wife and I politely turned down invitations for play dates and get-togethers. We remain focused on doing our part toward flattening the curve. This means having three kids (four if you count me) at home with limited contact to the outside world. It's an adjustment for everyone. Whenever the kids start clashing, usually by late afternoon, we take a family walk around the block. On just day five, we find ourselves walking a lot!
Last week jobless claims rose to 281,000. With the fast moving COVID-19 eviscerating demand, this is just the initial blast off of jobless claims. For those expecting a V-shape bottom, it is just way too early to call. Bill Gates believes the virus shutdown can last 10 weeks. This is going to be incredible strain on businesses.
The Fed Open Market Committee was set to meet this Tuesday and Wednesday and the market was expecting a 100bps rate cut to the emergency zero level. Instead, the Fed shocked the market with a Sunday rate cut of the expected 100bps and surprise announcement of a $700 billion bond buying program, aka Quantitative Easing 4. This certainly feels like a panic move by Chairman Jerome Powell and the Fed. A Sunday afternoon rate cut is unprecedented. The market didn't take it well with US futures opening limit down -5% and then stocks tumbled at the open to trigger a 15 minute pause in selling. What does it all mean for investors?
Back in January, I wrote a blog post when coronavirus, COVID-19, first appeared on the radar. There were just 600 cases and the Chinese government had already locked down Wuhan and neighboring cities. I was hopeful that with modern medicine and China's quick quarantine that the coronavirus could be contained. While the Chinese appear to have contained their cases, the rest of the world hasn't taken enough aggressive action to stop it in its tracks and now Western Europe is about to pass China in number of active cases! This is a frightening thought as only Italy has gone into lockdown and it did so at over 10k cases. The Europeans aren't taking enough action and this problem is spiraling out of control.
On Tuesday morning, the Fed stepped in and cut the Fed funds rate by 50bps in an emergency move to try and calm markets over coronavirus fears. Markets immediately spiked up but then sold off throughout the day. The market is expecting more rate cuts this month from the Fed and the ECB. For investors, the question is: can the central banks fight off the effects of coronavirus? The answer is yes and no.
Right now the media is obsessed with the coronovirus and fear is running rampant. Even my local school district in NJ had to comment on coronovirus despite there being only 60 cases in the entire United States and none in NJ. While we don't take this subject lightly, we do believe that this is providing one of the yearly "buy the fear" points, not a time to sell.
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