Monday, March 30, 2020

Coronavirus Will Kill Many, but Government Response Has Killed the Economy

Theories have been floated about the coronavirus, or COVID-19, pandemic, suggesting (or outright claiming) that the infectious virus is variously a Chinese communist plot, an American false flag, a scheme by central banks or other nefarious, elitist secret society types, a message from God, an outer space concoction that has something to do with planet X, or that it's just the flu and the media, in cahoots with the governments of the world, is hyping it to the maximum degree as a cover story for the second Great Depression that was about to unfold, anyway.

At least for a change, nobody is blaming Vladimir Putin, the Russians or the Ukraine. They seemed to have worn out their scapegoat status.

Whatever and wherever the truth may lay, it's becoming apparent that the cure may be worse than the disease.

If a business were to shut down for a month or six weeks or maybe two months, the chances of it coming back to life in a healthy manner would be slim. Employees may have found new positions at other companies, customers would have had the time to find alternative sources for the product or service the shut-down business provided, bills, such as rent, utilities, and loans may or may not have been paid in a timely manner, and most of all, there would have been zero income for said business.

Now, multiply that case by thousands in one area, then expand the condition to all areas of the country and you've got a real mess, or, the current state of the global economy. Hundreds of thousands of businesses are temporarily closed and have been shuttered for as long as six weeks in some countries. Many of these operations are small businesses with a handful of employees, but the afflicted include major corporations with thousands of employees as well.

Adding to the nightmarish scenario are government orders or advisories at national or local levels telling people to stay home, to not go to work, to shelter in place, and otherwise avoid all unnecessary travel and contact with other people.

This is madness.

There is precisely zero possibility that the global economy will return to any place similar to what it was six months ago. And while that may be a good thing in the long run, in the short term it will almost completely destroy most of the economy, and rip to shreds any of the tattered fabric that remained of societies at local or national levels.

We have all of this for the sake of people getting sick, some dying, others experiencing nothing more than a minor cold, even more not contracting the virus at all. The latest figures from reliable sources put the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide at around 750,000. The number of deaths has surpassed 34,000. In the United States, there are now 143,000 confirmed cases and just over 2,500 deaths.

These numbers may sound frightening or staggering, but knowing how many people die every day may put them into a less-panicky perspective. Globally, about 153,000 people die every day. That's 1,071,000 every week and more than 380 million annually. In the United States, about 7500 people die daily, or about 2,750,000 each year.

Sure, the COVID-19 cases and death toll are mounting, but just taking the number of deaths already presented - 34,000 - and, for the sake of argument, assume they all died within the last month, that number is minuscule compared to the 4.6 million that normally die every month. It works out to 0.75%, or less than one percent worldwide.

So why are government officials making such a big deal out of COVID-19 when 80% of cases are resolved with little to no medical attention necessary and less than two percent eventually die from it?

Good question. People die in car accidents every day and we don't ban cars. There are murders and suicides every day and people have debated how to prevent them for decades. The normal flu variant - another virus - kills 290,000 to 650,000 people every year. Coronavirus has a lot of catching up to do, yet governments insist that we must destroy our economy in order to keep it in check. And guess what? It's not working. The caseloads and deaths pile up every day regardless of whether people stay home, avoid contact, wash their hands or (and, if the CDC were serious, they would require this of all Americans) wear face masks.

The goal is supposedly to slow the progress of this highly infectious pathogen. OK, fine, let's save some lives while killing our economy. Has anybody considered the number of lives that will be damaged or ruined, or the number of people that will die or have their lives shortened because of how this is being handled?

Face the facts. Many jobs are not going to be there if and when this virus panic is concluded. Over the weekend, President Trump extended the social distancing, avoid social contact, and stay at home guidelines though April 30. That's 4 1/2 more weeks. By that time, many people will have to stay at home - if they have one - because they'll have no job and no money, and ironically, even if they do have enough dough on hand to put gas in their cars at massively reduced prices, other than the grocery store, pharmacy, or bank, there's nowhere for them to go. Everything else is closed.

So, our so-called leaders (Chris Martenson of Peak Prosperity calls them "managers," because they aren't really leading anybody) have made the decision to save some number of lives (10,000? 4 million? Who knows?)by effectively shutting down the economy, crashing the stock market, then fixing it all with a $2.2 trillion rescue attempt which includes sending checks to most people who make less than $75,000 a year. Those checks or direct deposits, when and if they do arrive, will amount to $1200 for most adults and $500 for each dependent child. If they wanted to be fair about it, they could take that $2.2 trillion and just doe out $6,666 to every man, woman and child in the country. If they took the entire amount and send money to just people who earn less than $75,000 a year - roughly 200 million - everyone would get $11,000.

However, since those roughly 200 million are going to get $1200, that's only $240 billion. The rest of that money - roughly $2 trillion, is largely going to corporations, which are going to lay people off in droves, and states, to cover extra expenses incurred in dealing with the crisis and for additional unemployment insurance. It's a rather large boondoggle, which will explode the federal budget, but who cares, since we're destroying the economy anyhow? The US is already $23 trillion in debt, what's another $2 trillion? The rest of the developed nations are in equally bad conditions, so they're planning on doing some similar bailout.

When this is all over, maybe by September, your local restauranteur will be out of business, but the McDonalds, Applebees, Pizza Huts, and Taco Bells of the world will be there to please your palette. The government's solution to COVID-19 will manage to crush small businesses and reduce the middle class to rubble.

Stock market declines will wipe out pensions.

Banks and large corporations will get loans or grants, aka, bailouts, again.

In the face of all of this, stocks went on a tear last week, having the best week since 1932, supposedly, which is ironic, because 1932 was in the midst of the Great Depression. All of the top five or seven best daily or weekly gains for stocks have come during bear markets, just as last week's did.

While some people were claiming that the bear market was vanquished last week, there's absolutely no truth to that. All major indices are at least 20% lower from the all-time highs made in February. Stocks are in a bear market and they'll stay in one no matter how much money the government and Federal Reserve throws at them. Stocks may go up for a while, but they're destined to go right back down. There's no escaping the fact that the global economy is broken, banks are largely insolvent and at some point will likely be shut down, unemployment is headed north of 20% and bankruptcy attorneys are set to make fortunes.

Gas at the pump is the lowest it's been in decades. Gold and silver cannot be purchased and delivered at current quoted prices. Most dealers are sold out. Wait times for what may be available are as long as 45 days. While gold popped back over $1600 an ounce last week, nobody can touch an ounce for less than $1800. Pricing for physical has decoupled from the fake, manipulated futures con game price at the COMEX.

The same is true for silver. It's current price is floating somewhere around $14.50 per ounce. Sales on eBay, where delivery can be as quick as two day because private individuals are selling there, have the price for an ounce of silver anywhere from $20 to $25. That market is broken. More markets will break down in coming days, weeks, and months. It might be instructive to consider the equity markets broken since the Federal Reserve can prop up the banks and other companies at will, even though their mandate allows them to buy just about everything but stocks, though that will likely change. Imagine playing poker with a guy who has $20 trillion and you have $200. That's what trading stocks is going to be like soon.

Bond prices are the lowest in history. The short-dated maturities briefly went negative last week. Expect that to be the rule rather than the standard going forward.

It's an absolute mess, a complete shame. Already, the banks are in trouble, as CapitalOne (COF) received a back-handed bailout last week, getting a waiver from the CFTC when they were caught with their pants down playing derivatives in the oil market (yes, the oil market that crashed last month). There's more to come from your friendly banking community, which gets money for nothing and loans it to the public at 20%, 25%, 29% or more.

Everything is just peachy.

Here are some recent numbers for the major indices, noting the recent all-time highs (February, 2020) and interim lows (March, 2020):

Dow High: 29568.57, Low: 18213.65
NASDAQ High: 9838.37, Low: 6631.42
S&P High: 3393.52, Low: 2192.86
NYSE High: 14183.26, Low: 8664.94
Dow Transports: High: 11359.49, Low: 6481.20

At the Close, Friday, March 27, 2020:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 21,636.78, -915.39 (-4.06%)
NASDAQ: 7,502.38, -295.16 (-3.79%)
S&P 500: 2,541.47, -88.60 (-3.37%)
NYSE: 10,187.21, -349.07 (-3.31%)

For the Week:
Dow: +2462.80 (+12.84%)
NASDAQ: +622.86 (+9.05%)
S&P 500: +236.55 (+10.26)
NYSE: +1054.05 (+11.54)
Dow Transports: +861.46 (+12.60%)

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