Buying the Wuhan Virus – Stock Investor

Posted: January 27, 2020 at 12:47 am

On Tuesday, we saw modest declines in the stock market that were driven by fears of an economic fallout from the rapidly spreading Wuhan coronavirus. As of this writing, there have been 17 confirmed deaths and some 540 cases of infection, and that number is bound to soar in the days and weeks to come.

Undoubtedly, the sensationalism in the media over the possible threat of a global pandemic will spike, because there is no more eyeball-grabbing headline than the threat of Armageddon. So, considering the situation remains in the nascent stages, I wanted to assuage any fears you might have about this situation. And because this publication is committed to peeling off the top layers of the onion skin on any issue, Im also going to provide you with some ways that you, as an investor, can make money buying the Wuhan virus.

To do that, I enlisted the expert help of my friend, macro analyst extraordinaire, and contributor to myIntelligence ReportandSuccessful Investingnewsletters, Tom Essaye, founder and editor of the highly recommendedSevens Report.

The following is a conversation I had with Tom last night regarding the Wuhan virus and its market implications.

Jim Woods (JW): Based on my reading, the Wuhan coronavirus is a strain of the more common coronavirus that gives us mild upper respiratory infections. That sounds very similar to the SARS virus that became a big threat in 2003, and the MERS virus that caused a scare in 2012.

Tom Essaye (TE): It sounds like a case of viral dj vu to me. The only reason its called the Wuhan coronavirus is because it originated in Wuhan, China, and all the cases in other countries have been traced back to people who visited Wuhan recently. Scientists think the virus was alive in an animal (probably a fish) and made the jump to people there.

JW: Thats scary, but thats also nature.

TE: Yes, it is. It also scared markets, because the spread of the virus and the implication that it might be transmitted through human contact is what hit stocks on Tuesday. That fear is compounded by the fact that the Chinese New Year is on Saturday, and travel within China around the New Year is similar to the week of Thanksgiving here in the United States, so there is the possibility this virus could spread rapidly.

JW: From an economic standpoint, fears of an epidemic are definitely not good. I think thats likely the reason stocks were down on this news.

TE: The concern here is that people in China might sit out the New Year for fear of getting sick, which will hurt the Chinese economy and make a global economic rebound (which is priced into stocks) less likely.

JW: Well, if the virus does spread globally, that would make the negative economic impact much larger and, as you mentioned, given that a global economic rebound is priced into stocks, that would obviously be a headwind for markets.

TE: I agree. Yet you know me, Im always looking for a silver lining in any situation, and a way for investors to seize the opportunity.

JW: Yes, I know, and thats why I love you.

TE: (Laughs). In all seriousness, since this disease is closely related to SARS, I think the market reaction to the SARS outbreak gives us a good template to follow. Thats why I went back and looked at market returns during the SARS scare, which I dated roughly from December 2002 through April 2003. I then looked at cross asset returns to see what fared the best.

JW: I remember that period well. I was freelancing as a writer/book editor then, and I was happy that I didnt have to do any overseas travel. I was also happy that I was trading gold during that time, as it was one of the few asset classes that held up to the scare.

TE: Thats exactly right. In fact, gold gained nearly 6% over that time frame and rallied nearly 20% at the highs on a general risk-off move in markets. Moreover, during that five-month period anything related to discretionary spending or the emerging markets/China underperformed, which is exactly what wed expect. Global consumer discretionary stocks fell nearly 5%, while emerging markets and global stocks fell 2.5%. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq both saw smaller declines, but its important to note that the lows over that period were substantially worse than the final result, as all of those indices (S&P 500, Nasdaq, ACWI, Emerging Markets, Global Consumer Discretionary) each fell more than 10%. So, there was volatility over that time period.

JW: So, besides gold, where do you see the opportunities for investors if the Wuhan virus does turn out to be a SARS-like event?

TE: Im glad you asked that, because I also took a look at the same basket of indices and sector performance over the ensuing 12 months (May 2003 through May 2004), and emerging markets were the clear winner. While all the major indices rebounded, the MSCI Emerging Markets index returned more than 49% over the next year and traded as high as 60% over the following year.

JW: Thats very interesting, particularly because the current risk/reward in emerging markets is very positive. Ive already mentioned this to my readers, but I currently see a bullish confluence of factors when considering emerging markets, e.g. low valuations, Chinese fiscal stimulus, the phase one trade deal between the U.S. and China and the resulting expectation of a global growth rebound. Together, I think these factors support the bullish case for emerging market equities such as those in theiShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (EEM).

TE: I agree. And notably, EEM fell 2.5% on Tuesday due to Wuhan virus fears. To me, that pullback is likely to represent a very good opportunity for investors to begin to leg into an emerging market position over the next few days/weeks on any extended EEM weakness. And though Wuhan does look scary, looking through my lens it just looks a lot like SARS. And as I just told you, emerging markets were the contrarian play out of the SARS scare back in 2003/2004, and that could definitely be the case again.

JW: Thanks, Tom. Whenever I need a smart opinion, its comforting to know that I can chat you up.

TE: Anytime, Jim. Now stop thinking about markets and go feed your horses.


Reminiscences of Intellectual Activism with a Fellow Idea Warrior

When two friends whove known each other for more than three decades get together to reminisce about their mutual passion for ideas, literature, career and living the Renaissance Man ethos, you know youre in for an auditory treat.

And thats exactly what you get in this episode of theWay of the Renaissance Man podcast, as I speak with my good friend, writer, filmmaker and intellectual activist Stewart Margolis.

During this discussion, youll learn how Stewart and I began our adventures in idea advocacy while students at UCLA, and how weve continued to promote those ideas throughout the decades.

Youll also learn about Stewarts years living the life of a financier in Bermuda; his various film and screenwriting projects, and his work with the Ayn Rand Institute.

If youve ever wanted to eavesdrop on two friends ruminating on their mutual love of reason, passion and staying in the moment, thenthis episode was made for you.


Hold the Restless Dreams of Youth

Any escape might help to smoothThe unattractive truthBut the suburbs hold no charms to sootheThe restless dreams of youth

RUSH, Subdivisions

I could draw from Neil Pearts prodigious body of work for years, but I promise I will be judicious in my use of The Professors wisdom. Yet because the wound of his passing remains raw in my heart, I thought Id give you an excerpt from one more lyrical passage that helped shape my mind as a young man.

Upon hearing the bands brilliant critique of social conformity in the song Subdivisions, I knew that I had to go out and explore what the world had to offer me. Perhaps thats why Ive tried my whole life to be aRenaissance Man, and to do many different things as well as I can. And though I am middle aged now, my restless dreams of youth continue to fuel my passion for life. May that spirit also animate you on your lifes journey.

Wisdom about money, investing and life can be found anywhere. If you have a good quote that youd like me to share with your fellow readers, send it to me, along with any comments, questions and suggestions you have about my newsletters, seminars or anything else.Click hereto ask Jim.

In the name of the best within us,

Jim Woods

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Buying the Wuhan Virus - Stock Investor

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