Dear Clients and Friends,

Global stock markets have been selling off heavily.  Many point to the uncertainty around the coronavirus outbreak as the purported cause.  Is this selloff an overreaction to an uncertain outcome?  We think so.

I hope you find the attached Report from economist Brian Westbury of First Trust Advisors to be a helpful perspective when viewing the current outbreak.

Please feel free to pass this letter on to your friends or to reply to this email if you would like to discuss this further.

Subject: Time to Fear the Coronavirus?

Monday, fear over the Coronavirus finally gripped investors, as both the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 index fell over 3% – the largest daily declines in two years. These drops wiped out all the gains for the year.

Frankly, it’s amazing to us that the market had been so resilient! Maybe it’s because recent history with stocks and viruses is that markets overreact leading to significant buying opportunities along the way. Over a 38-day trading period during the height of the SARS virus back in 2003, the S&P 500 index fell by 12.8%. During the Zika virus, which occurred at the end of 2015 and into 2016 the market fell by 12.9%. There are other examples, but they all passed, and the market recovered and hit new highs.

Will this happen again? Our view is that it is highly probable.

We aren’t trying to be immunologists, and that may make our points moot, but there aren’t that many immunologists in the world and the World Health Organization says this is not yet a true pandemic. We’re just economists, but looking at the data, and having perspective is always important.

This whole thing is a human tragedy and we would never take human life and suffering lightly. And looking at data can make people appear cold, when in reality all they are trying to do is understand the situation. There are currently 80,088 confirmed cases and 2,699 deaths from the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak as of Monday. This is a big number and is still growing, but the pace of growth looks to be slowing.

Much of the pessimism surrounding the virus focuses on the Chinese under-counting the number of infected to save face. However, it’s important to note that a shortage of specialized test kits has caused health officials in many countries to rely on observable symptoms for diagnoses, and because coronavirus mimics the flu and pneumonia in its early stages, it’s also possible that authorities may be over-counting as well.

Instead of looking at it from a total confirmed case perspective, we think the number of total active cases provides a better look into what is happening. This measure takes total confirmed cases and subtracts deaths and recoveries. This gives the total amount of people who have the potential to spread the virus further.

According to Worldometer, which aggregates statistics from health agencies across the world, total active cases peaked about a week ago at 58,747 and have since been declining. Even with all the new cases we are seeing in South Korea, Italy and Iran (where data is suspect). There have been 30,597 cases with an outcome (2,699 deaths and 27,898 recovered). In other words, the total active cases now stand at 49,923, a drop of 15% from the peak on February 17th.

One death is too many, but to put that number into a little bit of perspective, according to the World Health Organization, in the United States alone for the 2019-2020 season, there have been at least 15 million flu illnesses, 140,000 hospitalizations and 8,200 deaths. Imagine if everyone with an internet connection followed the spread of this annual flu, case by case, hour by hour.

It’s true that the death rate from Coronavirus appears to be around 2% in China, which is much higher than the death rate from the normal flu, but like the flu increases with age. However, outside of China the death rate is far less than inside China, roughly 1%. And, there is already a drug that will combat COVID-19 moving toward first phase clinical trials. It took three months for this to happen in 2020, versus 20 months for SARS back in 2002/03 – a testament to advances in drug technology.

From a macro-economic point of view, the real question is how will this impact the US economy over the coming year. In short, our view has not changed. The US we believe is relatively insulated, with a fantastic health system. The US started the year with solid economic data and so far, nothing has changed. In fact, with all the data we already have on hand, we are expecting around 2% growth in Q1. Most of the impact to the US from the corona virus will come in Q2.

Capital goods exports to China along with imports from China are sure to be depressed given the struggles to reopen factories abroad. Most Chinese factories are still only operating at about 50-60% of capacity. Shipping giant Maersk has already said it has cancelled more than 50 trips to and from Asia. With China being home to seven of the world’s busiest container ports there is bound to be some impact. Inventories in the US will be depleted more rapidly, but once the virus subsides, expect faster accumulation of inventories in the second half of the year.

Revenues and earnings from companies that are highly exposed to China will definitely be affected. China being shut down for a month will have a global impact. But lower earnings in the first half of the year should be made up by a strong rebound in the second half of the year with payback from lost months. Demand remains strong and there has been no visible impact yet on the job market as shown by initial unemployment claims. Supply disruption is the issue. We suggest looking through any earnings weakness as we expect it to be transitory.

One small nugget of good news is that many companies had already been shifting supply chains from China due to the Trump Tariffs. If they weren’t considering it before they will be now as they realize the importance of diversification. Expect this trend to accelerate moving forward.

The US consumer is on solid footing and will continue to be one of the key drivers to US economic growth in the year to come. We believe, just like all the other viruses we have seen over the past decades that have dissipated, the Coronavirus will be no different. Some have suggested that the 1918 Spanish Flu, which killed hundreds of thousands in the US could happen again. No one knows, but 2020, is not 1918. Technology and news move much faster and the US rebounded from the Spanish Flu when all was a said and done. We suspect that any drop in earnings or economic activity will be short lived, and more than made up for in the year to come. Don’t panic, stay invested.

Brian S. Wesbury – Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA – Deputy Chief Economist
First Trust Advisors

 

Ron’s Market Minute

The volatility in the global equity markets has been unsettling for investors to say the least.

There are Black Swan events and then there are BLACK SWAN events. The current decline, 12% in six days, ranks as one of the sharpest on record. Not counting 1929, the sharpest decline on record is the crash in October 1987, when the S&P 500 fell some 28% in 4 days.

We do not need any indicators to suggest that the market is oversold and ripe for a bounce.

With that in mind we want to be a buyer of equities (currently about 13% cheaper than they were a week ago.)  Bond holdings are bigger than they were, and that gives us room to bring bonds back to their preferred target weight.

This is not a trade for a home run, but rather a base-hit attempt after an oversold extreme. We are not suggesting that a bottom is in, and if stocks become cheaper while the long-term trend is still in place it is likely we will add to stocks again.   

The Fed is most certainly watching the stock market and the spread of the Coronavirus, as are the other central banks around the world. Yes, the famous PPT may take action soon with some sort of joint communique. Plunge Protection Team refers to the Working Group on Financial Markets, which was created in the aftermath of the 1987 crash. The PPT allegedly intervened in the markets in early February 2018 and held a teleconference on December 24th, 2018, after the market tanked.

If history is any guide, I would expect the PPT and the central bankers of the G-whatever to attempt something. Such actions may work in the short-term and provide a bounce. There was a bounce in the second half of February 2018 and then a test of the lows in early April. There was a massive bounce the last week of December 2018 and this carried until late April.

Even though the breadth tables signal a bear market environment, this does not preclude counter-trend bounces and general chaos. The stage is currently set for a counter-trend bounce, but risk remains above average with the change in the breadth models.

Bear market bounces can be just a sharp as bear market swoons. I suggest you buckle your seat belt and expect more volatility. This is a very difficult time.

Ronald P. Denk, CFP®
Investment Advisor
Denk Strategic Wealth Partners
10000 N. 31st Avenue, Suite C-262
Phoenix, AZ 85051
Phone (602) 252-8700
Fax (602) 252-8701
Toll-Free (877) The-Denk
www.denkinvest.com

This weekly article reflects news, commentary, opinions, viewpoints, analyses and other information developed by Denk Strategic Wealth Partners and/or select but unaffiliated third parties. DSWP provides Market Information for illustrative and informational purposes only. If you wish to receive this weekly commentary by email please contact us at 602-252-8700 or by e-mail at lindaw[@]denkinvest.com. If you are receiving this commentary via email and would prefer not to please let us know either by email or phone.

Ronald Denk is an Advisory Representative offering services through Denk Strategic Wealth Partners, A Registered Investment Advisor. He is also a Registered Representative, offering investments through Lincoln Financial Securities Corporation, Member FINRA/SIPC.

Denk Strategic Wealth Partners is not affiliated with Lincoln Financial Securities Corporation. Information in this commentary is the sole opinion of Denk Strategic Wealth Partners. Past performance is no guarantee of future returns. All market related investments involve various types of risk, which include but are not restricted to, credit risk, interest rate risk, volatility, going concern risk, and market risk.

The Update provides information of a general nature regarding legislative or other developments. None of the information contained herein is intended as legal advice or opinions relative to specific matters, facts, situations or issues. Additional facts, information or future developments may affect the subjects addressed in this document. You should consult with an attorney, accountant or DSWP planner about your particular circumstances before acting on any of this information because it may not be applicable to your situation.

Lincoln Financial Securities and Denk Strategic Wealth Partners and their representatives do not offer tax advice. Please see your tax professional regarding your individual needs.

*The indices are representative of domestic markets and include the average performance of groups of widely held common stocks. Individuals cannot invest directly in any index and unlike investments, indices do not incur management fees, charges, or expenses, therefore specific index returns will be higher. Past performance is not indicative of future results.

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