The novel coronavirus (Covid19) is still spreading across the globe and affecting all our lives. So how should we think, and what should investors do? Well, let us just start to acknowledge that each and every death case is a personal tragedy and should be taken very seriously. When writing about such a serious subject, I also feel I must point out this is merely my own personal opinions and that I am not an expert in epidemiology or any other subject for that matter.
The current status of Covid19
As always when it comes to important and potentially emotional subjects, it can be very useful to take a step back. Reason, nuance and the big pictures are keywords that come to mind.
Here is a graph showing the worldwide cumulative cases and deaths year to date, next to the same number for deaths from all causes.
Do you see all those small dark staples in the middle? That’s the deaths from covid19. Looking at this big picture, it seems to me that:
Covid19 cases are increasing at a high rate
Covid19 deaths are not increasing at a high rate
Covid19 is not a big driver in deaths
For a layman like me, the explanation that feels most logical is that countries have continued to increase testing, because they want to get the pandemic under control. They want to identify potential infections in individuals in risk groups and also gather as much information as possible about the virus as a whole, to be able to combat it. However, it seems apparent that the deaths are not increasing at the same rate as cases. The death cases strikes me as the most important metric to keep in check, because the number of cases is obviously driven by the number of tests.
The above picture is from https://swprs.org/covid-the-big-picture-in-7-charts/, a post by Swiss Policy Research. I highly recommend reading the whole post, but I’ll cite the conclusions here aswell:
“Covid is a very serious global public health issue, but:
- Talking about “cases” as if these were sick people is misguided.
- Talking about IFRs (lethality) without distinguishing between the general population and nursing homes, as well as early and late pandemic phase, is misguided.
- Saying covid is “worse than the flu”, without saying for whom, is misguided.
- Saying the recession is “due to covid”, not the political reaction, is misguided.
- Saying epidemiological models have been accurate and helpful, is also misguided.”
Also, check out this tweet where a medical degree explains that the infection fatality rate is 0,13 %.
A couple of weeks ago my girlfriend showed me this very interesting video on the subject. I highly recommend watching it in full.
My biggest take away from that video is that Covid19 seems to be highly seasonally driven, and that it follows very similar patterns as other seasonal infections. On this point, it seems pretty clear that Covid19 is related to the “normal flu”. When comparing Covid19 in different countries, it seemed clear that a common denominator for countries suffering the most now, is that their previous flu season was “low” or “easy” (like I told you, not an epidemiologist here…).
Meanwhile, UN labour agency claim that 1,6 billion people face economic hits from the political response to Covid19. (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/29/half-of-worlds-workers-at-immediate-risk-of-losing-livelihood-due-to-coronavirus)
Also, 150 million children are now in poverty due to the same reason. (https://www.unicef.org/press-releases/150-million-additional-children-plunged-poverty-due-covid-19-unicef-save-children)
The Swedish strategy
The country where I live, Sweden, has gotten some attention for the strategy on the corona virus. It seems to me that our strategy received a lot of criticism at first, but that it now is looked favorable upon.
Our strategy is based mostly on recommendations about distancing, hygiene and working from home. Here’s a comprehensive timeline of the Swedish strategy.
(Pictures from https://news.ki.se/the-first-eight-months-of-swedens-covid-19-strategy)
I think most of these measures make sense. The biggest objection for me right now is the restriction of the number of people that can gather at events. For many months now, 50 people have been the limit. It seemed that the government today would change the number to 500, which would still be strange in my eyes. However, they didn’t even do this. In fact, they proposed some increasing, local restrictions!
I fail to see the difference between for example 600 people in a concert (wherever that concert is), and a normal day in the Stockholm commute (900 000 daily), or a normal day in the shopping mall Mall of Scandinavia (30 000 daily). To my knowledge, the event business (sports, music etc) is the only one with an in-effect ban.
For me personally, life continues at a pretty normal pace. Some points from this year:
- To my knowledge, I have not been infected.
- Thankfully no one close to me has died from the virus. That makes me, on my personal level, feel like the Swedish strategy is good. Naturally this is just an anecdote – my personal experience.
- I have been furloughed from my work, resulting in me working 60 % instead of 100 % and getting about 94 % of my salary instead of 100 %. The impact on the actual business where I work has been minimal. Some restrictions are still in place, but it’s mostly business as usual.
- I continue to work a lot from home.
- Travels and vacations are naturally postponed. I had one trip planned to the Baltics that was cancelled. I did not get any compensation from any of the companies.
- I have (happily) started walking and cycling more instead of taking the metro.
All in all I feel lucky.
What we should do as investors
This is the easy one to answer. Keep investing! Responsibly, mind you. If you have been forced to deplete your emergency fund, or take a loan during this strange year, you should seriously think about those things first. Improving those things are also investments though!
If you have some money left over to invest in the stock market, take a look at some long charts of the market and realize it’s always up in the long run. Why not grab a beer and read my latest company presentation?
If anything, Covid19 is presenting opportunities for the smart investor. Some sectors that might present value right now are manufacturing, energy, shipping, retail and restaurants. For a dividend growth investor, market dips should almost always be looked at as buying opportunities. One of my holdings (Hufvudstaden) is down more than 30 % year to date, which is why I bought more last week. Read about it in my last Weekly Weekly Action report.
Stay safe and happy investing!