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

Election 2020: Joe Biden's Tax Plans
taxes

Election 2020: Joe Biden's Tax Plans

With the economy in trouble, tax policy takes on added importance in the 2020 presidential election. So, let's take a look at what Joe Biden has said …
October 15, 2020
Election 2020: States With Tax Questions on the Ballot
Politics

Election 2020: States With Tax Questions on the Ballot

On November 3, voters in 17 states will weigh in on a variety of proposed changes impacting taxes on everything from property to pot.
October 15, 2020
Will Joe Biden Raise YOUR Taxes?
taxes

Will Joe Biden Raise YOUR Taxes?

There's little doubt that, if elected, Joe Biden will try to raise taxes for some people. Will you be one of them?
October 16, 2020

Recommended

PPP Loan Forgiveness Applications are Now Easier
Coronavirus and Your Money

PPP Loan Forgiveness Applications are Now Easier

Small businesses that received PPP loans of $50,000 or less can now apply for forgiveness using a simplified application form.
October 16, 2020
Election 2020: Joe Biden's Tax Plans
taxes

Election 2020: Joe Biden's Tax Plans

With the economy in trouble, tax policy takes on added importance in the 2020 presidential election. So, let's take a look at what Joe Biden has said …
October 15, 2020
The Most Expensive Natural Disasters in U.S. History
Economic Forecasts

The Most Expensive Natural Disasters in U.S. History

Wind, water, fire and drought have all wreaked havoc on the United States. What’s been the worst?
August 26, 2020
Vote by Mail: A State-by-State Guide to Absentee Ballot Voting
Politics

Vote by Mail: A State-by-State Guide to Absentee Ballot Voting

With health authorities recommending people continue to social distance, the idea of voting by mail is becoming an increasingly hot topic.
August 4, 2020