Every week, thousands more businesses file for bankruptcy. The pandemic has crippled entire sectors, from travel to tourism, and continues to kill off business across these industries. Practically all industries are impacted in one way or another, it seems. Apparel manufacturers like Brooks Brothers and Tailored Brands have just filed for bankruptcy, because who is going to buy a suit when everyone is either unemployed or working from home in their pajamas? We knew the pandemic would be bad but perhaps we still haven’t grasped how bad it will end up.
I was going over some of my older columns, and they read like they were written years ago. Here’s a quote from Federal Reserve Chair Jay Powell in my Jan. 31 column: "There is likely to be some disruption to activity in China and possibly globally based on the spread of the virus to date and the travel restrictions and business closures that have already been imposed."
I go on to say the total number of deaths “has risen to 170 globally while the number of infected people reached 7,800. Meanwhile, all deaths are currently restricted to China. As the virus continues to spread, there will inevitably be deaths in other countries too.” This was six months ago.
Who knew the pandemic would be where it is now? What could have been done to better prepare for the fallout? Not much, really.
Even New Zealand, who by all accounts handled the pandemic better than nearly every other country, hasn’t escaped unscathed. Its tourism industry has been left reeling, and trade with other countries has plummeted. In a global economy, when your neighbor sneezes ...
So how bad can it get? Judging from the price of gold, it might get much, much worse.
While the first doses of a vaccine are to be distributed in October, the pandemic will last well into 2021, it appears.
This means global travel and trade will also take years to recover. So how will firms and individuals survive in the meantime? The Fed and the European Central Bank (ECB) are joined by other central banks in pumping out liquidity, it seems, to no end. This currency debasement is causing commodities like gold to spike. Normally, this spike in commodities should turn into a spike in prices for finished goods and food. This has yet to happen because of a collapse in demand.
I can’t make a good recommendation on what to do here because this is truly an unprecedented event. The one thing that we can learn from past unprecedented events is: Don’t panic.
Things will bounce back eventually. If you can minimize exposure to currency and liquidity risks and keep overhead low, you can hang on until the storm passes. For those with a great risk appetite, buy distressed assets that others are bailing on – you may be rewarded for your patience when the pandemic is finally over.
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