Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Wall Street Plays Wait-and-See On Coronavirus (WuHan Flu)

Without a source more trustworthy than the Communist Party of China (CPC) for accurate data on the coronavirus (Wuhan Flu), it's difficult to make an assessment of the threat from the disease which has spread to 25 countries and two cruise ships, but has so far resulted in only 517 confirmed cases and two deaths, one in Hong Kong and another in the Philippines.

Inside mainland China, it's apparently a different story, what with 44,685 confirmed cases and 1114 deaths, the government is trying to maintain the people's spirit, but, with something on the order of 400 million people under quarantine orders, theres little doubt that patience is wearing thin.

Wall Street has, for the most part, faded the fallout from the virus's effect on China's economy and its part in the global supply chain until yesterday, when stocks slumped after an initial upside burst, leaving the Dow on the downside and the other indices hanging onto marginal gains. Notable was the NYSE, which led all the averages percentage-wise, an outlier occurrence, and possibly the beginning of a shift into small cap stocks.

Commodities were flat, with gold and silver barely budging from unchanged and oil settling around the $50 mark for WTI crude.

US treasuries escaped from inversion, with the 10-year note finishing at 1.59% yield and bills with maturities of less than a year all lower than that, albeit by only a few basis points. The 30-year bond is sitting precariously on a yield of just 2.05%.

China, notorious for supplying information that is either corrupted, massaged, or goal-sought to the pleasure of the Party, is difficult to gauge in terms of what it's telling the rest of the world. Are there 1100 dead from the virus or 11,000? Have over 4000 recovered, or more, or less? And what were the treatments involved?

None of this information is readily available as China is keeping a tight lid on the details. One thing is for sure: plants that were closed first because of the Lunar New Year holiday and had their closures extended by the threat of the virus are still closed, even though many were supposed to reopen on Monday, February 10. That's a worry Wall Street cannot overlook for long. With companies supplying component parts from everything from automobiles to washing machines, the effect of their closure will be felt up the chain. Car-makers outside of China, Nissan, Tesla, Kia, and others have already announced plant closures due to supply disruption. The longer the Chinese factories remain shuttered, the worse it is not only for the Chinese economy, but the global condition as well.

The overarching theme from the public start of the virus in early January to today has been one of questions about the virulence of the virus, the length of its incubation, the mortality rates. These questions have been answered in roundabout manners, but the big one, where does this all end? remains a mystery. China says the spread of the virus is slowing; the WHO says a global heightening of risk is on the horizon.

For the time being, everybody is playing a wait-and-see game.

At the Close, Tuesday, February 11, 2020:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 29,276.34, -0.48 (-0.00%)
NASDAQ: 9,638.94, +10.55 (+0.11%)
S&P 500: 3,357.75, +5.66 (+0.17%)
NYSE: 14,054.08, +69.60 (+0.50%)

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