Stocks In the Time of Pandemic

The Covid-19 pandemic has made people acutely aware of the symbiotic relationship between health and the economy, specifically business.

The challenge facing developing Asian countries
Source: ADB.ORG

Health vs. Business

Globally, views on this relationship are varied, often vacillating between the potential effects of lifting the quarantine on public health, versus the effects of maintaining the quarantine on the economy. In the Philippines, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority general manager, Jojo Garcia went on “The Chiefs” to explain the mayors’ decision to support the shift to a general community quarantine. “Naghihikahos na po tayong lahat. Kailangang magbukas ng ekonomiya, mas maraming mamamatay sa gutom. (We are all suffering. The economy must open, or more may die from hunger.)” Starting June 1, upon approval of President Rodrigo Duterte and the IATF, NCR will shift from MECQ to GCQ. Other parts of the country will be under MGCQ. Davao City, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Pangasinan and Albay will be under GCQ as well. 

The World Health Organization still stressed on the importance of observing health measures. Dr. Takeshi Nishijima, WHO Western Pacific technical officer, stressed in a DOH virtual briefing last Tuesday that staying at home and physical distancing must still be maintained as newly recorded cases of Covid-19 are “not rapidly decreasing even after the strict implementation of the community quarantine.” 

With 6.15 million confirmed cases around the world (as of May 31), people seemed to have turned their attention and hope towards science and its efforts to build a viable vaccine. In the Philippines, President Duterte, in his April 24 address, offered a 50 million-peso reward to encourage Filipino scientists to develop a vaccine. While approval for easing the quarantine was given, he  reminded the public that face masks still need to be worn to prevent the spread of the virus. Last May 25, Duterte also stated that he will not allow school to reopen unless a vaccine is found. 

The Business of the Pandemic

This global, public focus on the appearance of the vaccine also had another economic, financial repercussion – on the stock market. 

Ryan Detrick, senior market strategist for LPL Financial, told Bloomberg in an article published last May 23, “It’s like, oh my god my head is about to explode, I’m not a scientist. We’re trying to quickly learn new jargon that people have spent decades learning.” Detrick spoke of how the desperate clamor for a Covid-19 vaccine has shaken up even the financial market, forcing traders to learn “nomenclature of disease as new financial jargon.“

The effect on Wall Street was not just on jargon. The New York Times reported on May 23 that biotech company, Moderna, received backlash as concerns of “whether the company had sought to jack up the price of its stock offering.” Moderna had announced early on May 18, “positive results from a small, preliminary trial of its coronavirus vaccine, describing the news as a “triumphant day.” As a result, the company’s stock price surged to as much as 30 percent. However, “hours after its initial news release — and after the markets closed — the company announced a stock offering with the aim of raising more than $1 billion to help bankroll vaccine development.”

Moderna Therapeutics
Source: Brian Snyder/Reuters

The Danger of the Miracle Business

“It’s a crazy, speculative environment, because the pandemic has caused people to want to believe that there’s going to be a miracle cure in a miracle time frame,” David Maris, managing director of Phalanx Investment Partners, told The New York Times.

While previously “drug companies [are] accustomed to releasing early data to attract investors and satisfy regulators,” they suddenly find themselves balancing on a tightrope. According to, “leading researchers are still saying that it can be another 14-18 months before the world gets to access a vaccine.” Yet, scientists who are accustomed to taking time to “gather and analyze their data” are “trying to compress the timetable for developing vaccines that normally takes years, sometimes decades, into a year or so — and still ensure that the vaccines will be safe and effective.”

Investor concerns seem to have caught up with this reality. Reuters published May 28 that Moderna Inc. “fell about 10% Wednesday”, as concerns about “the prospects of the experimental products that are still in early stages of development.”

The hunt for the miracle vaccine

The Business of Living

While it is clear that the world cannot yet predict the full effect of the pandemic on global economy and business as it also still attempts to grasp the devastating impact on health and lives — some postulate another way of looking at Covid-19. William Wan and Carolyn Johnson wrote on The Washington Post, “there’s a good chance the coronavirus will never go away.”

Sarah Cobey, an epidemiologist and evolutionary biologist at the University of Chicago, also told The Post, “This virus is here to stay. The question is, how do we live with it safely?”

The article continued, “even after a vaccine is discovered and deployed, the coronavirus will likely remain for decades to come, circulating among the world’s population…Think measles, HIV, chickenpox.”

While daunting, this change in mindset of “embracing reality” may be crucial for the world to thrive. According to Irwin Redlener, director of Columbia University’s National Center for Disaster Preparedness, “Leaders desperately need to shift their response from short-term crisis management to long-term solutions.”

As the world grapples to live with the reality of Covid-19, this mindset is one that may help people become unstuck from struggling between health and business. A perspective that may be difficult, but acceptance of the long-term presence of covid-19 may be key to helping people imbibe instead a mindset for safety, and get to the business of living.  

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