A Week of Scary Headlines - Dylan Jovine

Writing About the Stock Market & Life Since 2003


A Week of Scary Headlines

This has been a week of scary headlines.

On Tuesday, President Trump prepared us for the likelihood that we would see between 100,000 and 240,000 total deaths. In an address noted for how somber he sounded, he warned us of a “very painful” two weeks.  It was a historic moment in American history.

And today, the Labor Department reported that US initial weekly jobless claims surged to more than 6.6 million last week. That blew away even the most pessimistic estimates. It brings the two-week total to about 10 million, due to the coronavirus-induced economic shutdown.

Maybe tomorrow we’ll learn the virus has created giant T-Rex sized chickens who are now running down the streets of New York.

And yet, far beneath the scary headlines there are some tangible reasons for optimism. A clear path out of this virus is starting to emerge. It’s not a miracle drug, at least not yet. But it shows us how we could start blocking and tackling our way back to normal.

On Monday, Abbot Labs won emergency approval from the FDA for a test that can return results in under fifteen minutes. There’s absolutely zero chance we can go back to normal without a fast test like this. It’s the first piece of the “getting-back-to-normal” puzzle.

On Tuesday, Wal-Mart announced that they were going to start checking their employees for coronavirus. That means a shopper who visits a Wal-Mart will have one less thing to worry about. I can’t imagine every major retail outlet not doing the same. Wide adoption of this is the second piece of the “getting-back-to-normal” puzzle. 

On Wednesday, Johnson and Johnson announced a potential vaccine. They’re so confident in this new treatment, they’re going to start manufacturing it – before they get approval. This is not just two guys testing mice from some biotech in Jersey. This announcement comes from an American institution.

While the vaccine wouldn’t be available this year, it’s also a big piece of the “getting-back-to-normal” puzzle. It shows people that we may have a year or so of blocking-and-tackling ahead of us. A year of face masks in public, and temperature checks at the airports, and other social distancing measures. But it won’t last forever.

Also yesterday, news came out that Washington was beginning to negotiate a new infrastructure package. Maybe it’ll be a package that actually creates American jobs. A great start would be to get our pharmaceutical industry the heck out of China. Next in line would be to make us a leader in 5G. I think we’ve all had the wake-up call we needed in this area.

But by far the biggest news of the week has been that both New York and California are starting to “bend the curve.” That’s the ballgame, folks. We can’t get past “Go” without that happening.

Last week, I wrote that the second phase of a stock market panic was the “counter-attack” phase. The key to this phase is the ratio of bad headlines to good headlines.

At the beginning of this phase, all headlines are bad. But it’s not long before good headlines start to filter through also. And enough good headlines bring us to our third and final phase.

By my estimate, we’re still in the middle of phase two. But the good news that we’re finally starting to get the kinds of headlines you’ll need to see to get to the next phase of this panic, the “rebirth phase.”

“The Buck Stops Here,”

Dylan Jovine

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