3 April 2020
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AP Photo/Richard Drew

Well, der, America, the Coronavirus IS a big deal

Peter Switzer
19 February 2020

It’s what you have to call the “well, der” realisation for America and the US stock market with the penny finally dropping that the Coronavirus might be more impactful than Wall Street’s influencers have been willing to acknowledge.

Before the close and the New York stock market is down with the Dow Jones index off over 200 points. If the old script is followed, this negativity will be downgraded before the close but the building up of US market warnings are starting to increase.

The big news overnight came from Apple, which warned that the Coronavirus had hit production in China and demand was so significantly affected that it had to downgrade its profits forecast. Why isn’t any normal person surprised about that? However, it seems like the key drivers of stock prices have chosen to ignore this profit- hit implication of the virus until now.

And the warnings get scarier with CNBC reporting that prominent financial services firm Raymond James says the Chinese response to the virus is Chernobyl-like! The market will not easily digest that.

China’s “slow reaction and continued unanswered questions appear to be sowing real concerns among the Chinese people,” the firm told its clients in a recent note.

Raymond James had pursued its own research with Chinese government officials and academics and concluded that the “worst is yet to come..[and the]..market is underappreciating the potential dangers and what the key government leaders on the virus are saying.”

You have to hope that this call is off the mark but what we are now seeing is the reporting by the virus-affected companies of the real economic impact of this tragedy.

For Apple, it is only lower forecasted sales, production and profit but this is bound to impact its key supplier and partners. Overnight, companies that supply Apple, such as Skyworks Solutions saw its share price sink close to 2% but the effects of the virus were more significant for financial megabank, HSBC.

The bank plans to cut 35,000 jobs following a significant drop in profit — around 33% — and while the Coronavirus would not be in these numbers you’d have to guess that the Hong Kong protests plus the virus challenges for their economic home ground — Asia — could not be helping their optimism for 2020.

Raymond James thinks the recent uplift in stock prices has been driven by excess money in the US economy and I’d argue that reporting season has been better than expected but in February and March trading updates from virus-affected companies and stats on deaths linked to the Coronavirus will be the big challenges for stock markets hovering in record high territories.

Let’s hope Raymond James and its Chernobyl call is dead wrong or else stocks will fall.

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