How did COVID-19 begin and what could be next? This brief recap covers market gains and losses during what’s been a devastating event.
The coronavirus pandemic has taken taken the lives of over 850,000 people across the globe since it began, causing economic problems of historic proportions and putting pressure on world leaders as they scramble to respond to the widespread outbreak.
Although major pharmaceutical companies are working quickly in an effort to develop potential vaccine and treatment options for those with active coronavirus cases, it’s clear that the effects of this catastrophic disease will be felt extensively for many years to come.
Here the Investing News Network offers a brief coronavirus timeline, focusing on events associated with the spread of COVID-19 and its toll in terms of the capital markets.
Coronavirus timeline: Cases spread quickly from China
Most people will remember COVID-19 alarm bells starting to ring in March, with shutdowns beginning soon after. But the virus first came into existence late in 2019 in the Chinese region of Wuhan.
It began to spread before detailed information was available to the public, and was ultimately traced to a seafood market in Wuhan, which has a population of approximately 11 million.
The virus was discovered to be a “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2,” or SARS-CoV-2; it was given the name of coronavirus or COVID-19.
Little by little, new cases came along in the new year. The coronavirus made it to North America in January, with the United States confirming its first case in January in Washington State; the man who contracted the disease had returned from a trip to Wuhan.
COVID-19’s spread continued when France reported the first death in Europe in February, representing one of the first fatalities outside of China. Italy later became a massive hub for the virus, with authorities tragically confirming the death of 969 people in a 24 hour span in March.
On March 13, US President Donald Trump declared a national emergency due to the spread of the novel coronavirus and announced that US$50 billion would be made available to combat its spread.
In-person working, transit and traveling options started to shut down as it became apparent that the viral effects of the coronavirus would make it difficult to stop in its tracks. While some parts of the workforce were able to transition to work-from-home situations, that was not the case everywhere and an economic downturn began to settle in.
Coronavirus timeline: Global economic troubles begin
Instability and concerns about the impact of increasing virus cases quickly began to affect the performance of stocks at a global level. After public health worries led Trump to declare a state of emergency in the US, American stocks rallied impressively in March.
But then came a drop into bear market territory — Marketwatch has identified five factors that fed this collapse: uncertainty, the spill of oil prices, a selloff of historic proportions, misguided action from a policy standpoint in Washington and simple fear from the public.
In the US, the economic downturn was met with a US$1.5 trillion short-term loan injection for banks from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
Another factor impacting economic performance all around was the unemployment rate. By early April, nearly 10 million Americans had lost their jobs due to the pandemic. Temporary layoffs had a significant impact in Canada as well, which in April reported 2 million job losses.
“Ultimately that’s driven by the passage of the virus,” Douglas Porter, chief economist and managing director of economic research at BMO Financial Group, told Global News.
Public-facing jobs in the hospitality, food and tourism markets carried a big burden of the losses across North America. With social distancing, lockdown measures and travel restrictions, it became impossible for these businesses to operate at a normal rate.
As unemployment grew, both the United States and Canada implemented plans to help those who had lost their jobs as part of the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
The United States passed a US$484 billion relief bill in April, representing its fourth bill to support those impacted by the virus. Meanwhile, in Canada, the government launched various programs to support those who had lost jobs or whose businesses had been impacted by the pandemic.
Coronavirus timeline: Gold price goes on a tear
While many industries have been hurt by the rapid spread of COVID-19, it’s been a different story for some industries, and that includes parts of the mining space. Though resource companies were impacted by lockdown efforts, gold has been launched to new highs.
Various experts have spoken about the meteoric rise in the gold price following the significant impact of the coronavirus pandemic and the various factors motivating the push.
So far in 2020, the commodity has reached and surpassed its all-time high, even pushing past the US$2,000 per ounce price point. While some gold observers have celebrated this impressive result, others have said the jump comes with warning signs for for the global economy.
In an interview, Jeffrey Christian, managing partner at CPM Group, spoke about the various factors at play motivating the price uptick for gold.
Watch the full interview with Christian above.
“We thought that there were all these economic and political problems, but we thought they wouldn’t come home to roost this fast. One of the things that we’re wrestling with intellectually among ourselves is: Are we still in the foothills … or are we much closer to the mountains now? So is this the move to US$2,300 or not?” he explained.
“I’d like to believe from a position of political and social stability that we’re still in the foothills. But we may be much closer to that much more significant economic and political deluge than we thought we were.”
Coronavirus timeline: Pharma begins the road to a cure
As with any untapped medical need, pharmaceutical companies are jumping at the task of researching potential treatments for the virus. Firms like Pfizer (NASDAQ:PFE), Moderna (NASDAQ:MRNA), Gilead Sciences (NASDAQ:GILD) and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:REGN) have put forth interesting candidates and have even collaborated with one another during the summer.
“From the beginning it was clear that no one company or innovation would be able to bring an end to the Covid-19 crisis,” Pfizer CEO Albert Bouria said when confirming a collaboration with Gilead Sciences.
The US Food and Drug Administration has been collaborative with these companies — among other actions, it gave emergency approval to remdesivir, a drug from Gilead Sciences, since it could act as a potential novel coronavirus treatment.
Experts have argued about how quickly a potential treatment or vaccine could become available to the masse. While typically drug development is an extremely lengthy process, the amount of support and interest in a coronavirus vaccine could work in its favor.
In an interview with Global News, University of Guelph viral immunologist Byram Bridle said people need to be wary of short timelines for a potential treatment.
“Everybody wants hope, and the reason why I’m speaking out, though, is that false hope can be really problematic … It’s simply not feasible for a vaccine to be developed in such a short period of time.”
Coronavirus timeline: Investor takeaway
COVID-19 is a major public health issue, and investors will need to be ready for more turmoil stemming from the virus and its spread. With travel restrictions, social distancing measures and other disease control methods still in place in many parts of the world, it is likely to be some time before case levels are universally manageable and life thoroughly returns to normal.
There may also be turmoil to come as well as governments around the world begin to reckon with the vast amounts of money they have injected to keep their economies afloat — as coronavirus testing and vaccine development continue, it will be important for investors to be mindful of where opportunities may arise and where they may disappear.
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Securities Disclosure: I, Bryan Mc Govern, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.
Editorial Disclosure: The Investing News Network does not guarantee the accuracy or thoroughness of the information reported in the interviews it conducts. The opinions expressed in these interviews do not reflect the opinions of the Investing News Network and do not constitute investment advice. All readers are encouraged to perform their own due diligence.