The attached note looks at the ongoing threat posed by coronavirus to global growth and investment markets. The key points are as follows:
- The rout in financial markets has continued, on the back of coronavirus, made worse by a flow on to oil markets.
- The risk of a deeper hit to economic activity has risen. Key things to watch are the daily number of new cases, measures of economic stress and policy stimulus.
- Key things for investors to bear in mind remain that: share market falls are normal; selling shares after a fall locks in a loss; share pullbacks provide opportunities; and to avoid getting thrown off a long-term strategy it’s best to turn down the noise during times like this.
Coronavirus continues to rattle investment markets as the number of new cases outside China continues to rise posing increasing uncertainty over the impact on economic activity. And its impact has intensified following the collapse of OPEC discipline causing a further plunge in oil prices raising concerns about debt servicing for oil producers. From their highs global shares and Australian shares have had a fall of around 20%.
Source: PRC National Health Commission, Bloomberg, AMP Capital
Given the extreme uncertainty this note looks at various scenarios in relation to global and Australian economic growth and what signposts to look at in relation to how it may unfold.
Much ado about nothing or a major global catastrophe
It seems there are two extreme views on coronavirus. Some see it as just a bad flu and can’t see what the fuss is all about. Others think that it will trigger a major humanitarian and economic catastrophe killing millions and triggering a major global recession as excessive leverage is finally exposed. The optimist in me wants to lean to the former:
- So far over 114,000 people are reported to have contracted the virus of which nearly 4000 have died. Of course, this number is still growing but in China where the number of new cases has collapsed (see the first chart) the number is 80,754 cases and 3136 deaths. In the 2017-18 US flu season alone 44.8m Americans got sick and 61,099 died.
- The actual death rate from Covid-19 may be 1% or lower, rather than the currently reported rate of 3.5% because many of those who get the virus don’t get sick enough to seek medical help and so won’t be included in the case count. The Diamond Princess episode may provide a rough guide – all 3711 passengers and crew have been tested with 705 contracting the virus of which seven have died and most of those are believed to have been over 70. This would suggest a death rate of around 1% which is only just above that for regular flu for those over 65.
- It appears to be less contagious than regular flu.
- China’s experience shows it can be contained. Maybe this is due to extreme containment measures in Hubei that are not possible in other countries. But the case count in the rest of China has also been contained with less extreme measures and Singapore and Hong Kong have had some success in slowing new cases without extreme quarantining.