Economic Forecasts

How Hard Will Coronavirus Hit U.S., Global Economies?

COVID-19 poses serious risk of economic damage, possibly even a recession, even as its health impacts will be limited.

Markets are panicking about coronavirus. Should you? No. But the risks are serious. The virus itself is dangerous but not dire, based on the outbreaks that have happened so far. It’s highly infectious, but seems far less deadly than SARS, which killed about 10% of its victims. More people are likely to die of the seasonal flu this year than of coronavirus, based on recent trends.

The Federal Reserve is bound to cut interest rates. But that won’t do much. Availability of credit isn’t the problem. Any Fed cuts will be largely symbolic. Interest rates, short- and long-term, are likely to be depressed while the panic lasts. On employment, we see a modest effect: some layoffs, but the unemployment rate is unlikely to rise past 4% from its current 3.6%.

However bad the situation gets, the hit to global trade is already a given. Expect shortages of certain goods to begin by late March or April as inventories run out, especially so for electronics, ingredients for generic drugs and automotive parts.

The U.S. imports more than half of computers and electronics for smart phones, tablets and many other devices from Asia. So while it’s too early to know which particular products might be hurt most, if you’re in the market for a gadget like a new phone or virtual-reality headset, you might want to buy now. Similarly, if you rely on a generic drug, consider reaching out to your doctor to check on name-brand alternatives or getting a prescription for a longer supply. Oh, and garlic. With China providing 70% of the U.S. consumption, you might want to set some aside to keep enough zest in your cooking. In the longer run, expect businesses to rethink their global supply chains and bring more production home. We are already hearing of such plans in the works.

As for the stock market: Count on more volatility, with further selloffs on any bad news, and brief rallies on any hopeful news. How much lower stocks go is impossible to say. We advise exercising caution about making any big moves, either buying or selling. Sometimes during turbulent times, it’s best to sit tight.

So, where does this all end? With the development of a better virus test kit, drugs that can treat the effects and lower the death rate, and with a vaccine. Better test kits have been developed, but await production and distribution. Several possible vaccines have been proposed, and will soon begin human testing. But it is likely to be nine to 12 months before any vaccine will become widely available.

Most Popular

Your Guide to Roth Conversions
Special Report
Tax Breaks

Your Guide to Roth Conversions

A Kiplinger Special Report
February 25, 2021
The 12 Best Tech Stocks to Buy for 2022
tech stocks

The 12 Best Tech Stocks to Buy for 2022

The best tech-sector picks for the year to come include plays on some of the most exciting emergent technologies, as well as several old-guard mega-ca…
January 3, 2022
How to Know When You Can Retire
retirement

How to Know When You Can Retire

You’ve scrimped and saved, but are you really ready to retire? Here are some helpful calculations that could help you decide whether you can actually …
January 5, 2022

Recommended

Kiplinger's Economic Outlooks
Economic Forecasts

Kiplinger's Economic Outlooks

Regularly updated insights on the economy’s next moves.
January 21, 2022
The Kiplinger Letter’s Top 10 Forecasts for 2022
Economic Forecasts

The Kiplinger Letter’s Top 10 Forecasts for 2022

What to expect from the U.S. economy and an election-year Congress, as well as the outlook for cryptocurrency regulations, TikTok and more. Plus, we g…
January 13, 2022
Your Child Care Tax Credit May Be Bigger on Your 2021 Tax Return
Tax Breaks

Your Child Care Tax Credit May Be Bigger on Your 2021 Tax Return

Many families with young children will get a bigger tax credit for last year's childcare expenses. And more families will qualify for the credit, too.
January 13, 2022
Most-Overlooked Tax Deductions and Credits for the Self-Employed
Tax Breaks

Most-Overlooked Tax Deductions and Credits for the Self-Employed

If you've recently gone into business for yourself, see how the tax laws can work for you.
December 21, 2021