The Coronavirus, The Economy, and The Markets

I spoke at the Investment Club of America’s Economic Summit this past weekend. The title of my talk was, The Coronavirus, The Economy, and The Markets. In my talk, I summarized where I believe we are in terms of the economy and the markets given the worldwide spread of the coronavirus. The rapid spread of the coronavirus is significantly affecting the markets and investor confidence, as evidenced by last week’s market drop into correction territory. The spread of the virus is also beginning to have an impact on the U.S. and global economies. Please see my discussion below under Conclusions for my thoughts on where we currently stand on these fronts.

Economic and Investment Highlights

Last Week

Berkshire Hathaway underperformed the S&P 500 again last year. Berkshire has underperformed the market in the past few years.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to an all-time low as investors flocked to safe haven assets like U.S. Treasuries.

Federal health authorities now expect a wider spread of the coronavirus in the U.S. and are preparing for a potential pandemic.

Some U.S. firms say they could lose as much as half of their annual revenue from China if the coronavirus epidemic extends through summer. Amazon sellers that built their businesses using Chinese manufacturing are experiences problems as Chinese factories are shutting down due to the coronavirus.

Trump said the risk to Americans from the coronavirus remains fairly low. He put Vice President Mike Pence in charge of the federal response to the virus. However, many countries are realizing that keeping the virus out of their countries is difficult in a connected world.

The coronavirus is disrupting supply chains, production, and sales across a wide array of industries.

All three major U.S. stock indexes declined into correction territory, defined as a drop of 10 percent or more from a recent peak. They also posted their biggest one-day drop.

A swarm of locusts has swept across more than 10 nations on two continents and put millions of Africans at risk of starvation.

U.S. stocks had their worst week since the financial crisis.

The Fed signaled it stands ready to cut rates to cushion the economy if necessary.

The Dow, the S&P 500, and the Nasdaq all fell for the week. The Dow was down 12.4%; the S&P 500 was down 11.49%; and the Nasdaq was down 10.5%. The 10-year treasury yield ended the week at 1.127%. Gold closed at $1,564.10 for the week.

The Week Ahead

This link takes you to Econoday’s Economic Calendar and Economic Events and Analysis which shows the upcoming economic reporting events scheduled in the week and months ahead.


Note: The comments that follow are derived from the economic indicators referenced in the Resources section of this newsletter and other sources in this report.

The Aruoba-Diebold-Scotti Business Conditions Index (ALS) has been trending up the last several weeks from having dipped in 2019. This is a positive indicator for the economy on a short-term basis.

The GDPNow model estimate for real GDP growth (seasonally adjusted annual rate) in the first quarter of 2020 is 2.7percent. This reading continues to support the ALS model assessment of an improving short-term economic environment.

The New York Fed Staff Nowcast stands at 1.4% for 2020:Q1.

The Chicago Fed National Activity Index (CFNAI) showed a decrease in economic activity in December. The Chicago Fed National Activity Index (CFNAI) was -0.25 in January, up from from -0.51 in December.

All told, these short-term economic indicators are a neutral to positive analysis for the economy, at least on a short-term basis.

Expectations that stock prices will rise over the next six months is now at 40.6% in the latest AAII Sentiment Survey. The historical average is 38.0% for the survey. 30.8% of the investors in the survey described their short-term outlook as neutral and 28.7% were bearish. Please see the AAII Sentiment Survey for the complete results.

The latest Gross output (GO) reading suggests moderate economic growth as we enter 2020.

On a longer-term basis, the forecasters in the Philadelphia Fed’s Survey of Professional Forecasters (as of February 14, 2019) predict real GDP will grow at an annual rate of 1.7 percent for the first quarter of 2020, 2.1 percent for the second quarter of 2020, 2.0 percent in the third quarter of 2020, 2.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2020, and 2.2 percent in the first quarter of 2021. On an annual-average over annual-average basis, the forecasters predict real GDP to grow 2.0 percent in 2020, 2.0 percent in 2021, 2.0 percent in 2022 and 2.0 percent in 2023. The forecasters predict the unemployment rate will average 3.6 percent in 2020, 3.6 percent in 2021, 3.7 percent in 2022, and 3.9 percent in 2023.

For a more in-depth review and analysis of the economy, please see our mini-book on economic analysis and forecasting entitled: Simple and Effective Economic Forecasting.

Stock Market Valuations

Our estimates of the market valuations for two stock market indices, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) and the Standard & Poor’s 500 (S&P 500), can be found in the file below:


We continue to believe the economy is in a stable but somewhat vulnerable state. Nonetheless, it has remained fairly strong. In fact, robust consumer spending and strong labor market conditions still give us confidence that the economy, now in its tenth year of expansion, can continue to grow. But we are cautious on this outlook. There are several reasons for our caution. U.S. business growth has been mixed. And global economic growth has been mixed as well. The new coronavirus is becoming a global economic threat, although it is still too early to tell how much of an effect it will ultimately have. Debt is at high levels for consumers, businesses, and government (at all levels). Finally, this is an election year that will likely have significant consequences either positively or negatively depending on the outcome of the elections. And of course, it is still too early to tell what the outcome of the elections will be.

With the steep drop in the markets last week, we are now in a market correction that has no immediate solution for the underlying cause (i.e., the coronavirus). Before last week’s drop, the market was very overvalued. But even with the drop in the market, it still is not really cheap. The PE ratio on the Dow is 19.73 and the PE ratio on the S&P 500 is 22.23.

So, the broad market remains overvalued, although the Dow Jones Industrial Average looks more fairly valued than the broad market. But that does not mean that a further market decline is imminent. Markets can and do stay overvalued for long periods of time. As discussed above and in the Economic and Investment Highlights section of this Commentary, we believe the economy is in a stable but vulnerable state. If the economy remains strong, the markets will likely remain strong. If the economy deteriorates, the markets may well correct. There are other events, such as the coronavirus, that could trigger a further market decline, of course, but economic conditions are the most likely and foreseeable events that could make that happen.

We believe it is important to maintain a long-term view toward investing. This means that you should continue building your investment portfolio using the Cassandra Stock Selection Model to select individual securities that offer growth and value opportunities.

Chart for Review and Thought

S & P 500

Simple and Effective Economic Forecasting Model

Notes (GDP Growth Chart):

  1. See the July 8, 2019 Commentary for an introduction to this model.
  2. Actual numbers 2007 through 2019; forecasted numbers thereafter.
  3. Normal GDP growth is typically in the 2% to 3% range.
  4. A recession is generally defined as two consecutive quarters of negative economic growth as measured by a country’s gross domestic product (GDP).


Dr. Wendee spoke at the Investment Club of America’s annual economic summit, called Econosummit, on Sunday March 1, 2020 in Las Vegas.

We have been researching the use of crowdsourcing for investment ideas. We will be sending a survey out in the next few weeks to get your input on the economy and the markets; and to get any investment ideas that you would like to share. We will compile this input and distribute the results to you and our other subscribers.

Dr. Wendee has been researching and writing a new theory of economics known as, The Value Creation Theory of the Economy (also known as, Intrinsinomics). The full paper on Intrinsinomics will be published in the near future.

Finance 3350: Personal Finance-Portfolio & Risk Management– Dr. Wendee started teaching Finance 3350 – Portfolio & Risk Management at California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA) starting January 2020. Dr. Wendee teaches courses in Management and Finance at CSULA.

Business 4970:Strategic Management – Dr. Wendee started teaching  Business 4970:Strategic Management  at California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA) starting January 2020. Dr. Wendee teaches courses in Management and Finance at CSULA.

Business 218 – Macroeconomics – Dr. Wendee started teaching Business 218 – Macroeconomics at California Baptist University (CBU) starting January 2020. Dr. Wendee teaches courses in Finance and Economics at CBU.

Dr. Wendee presented a paper on his new theory of economics known as, The Value Creation Theory of the Economy (also known as, Intrinsinomics), at the International Leadership Association’s annual global conference which was held in Ottawa, Canada last Fall.

Dr. Wendee is working on a financial planning modeling program which will be available in the near future. The modeling program is designed to assist anyone in creating a financial plan and is customizable for each person’s unique financial planning goals.

Intrinsic Value Wealth Creation pyramid

We always conclude our commentary with a discussion of the Intrinsic Value Wealth Creation Pyramid. The Intrinsic Value Wealth Creation Pyramid is designed to show some of the major categories for building wealth. It is the result of many years of study of the wealth building process; experience working with clients who have built considerable wealth; and my own personal experience building wealth. Newsletter subscribers should consult the Intrinsic Value Wealth Creation Pyramid as one of many useful investment tools while considering their investment plans.

The chart in this section is an expanded version of the Intrinsic Value Wealth Creation Pyramid Chart referenced in the Forbes.com article entitled, Nine Of The Best Ways To Build Wealth.


See our Resources section for links to economic and other resources used in the preparation of this Commentary.

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