A warning to the opportunist investor in the current economic environment
Updated: Apr 27, 2020
Baron Rothschild, is credited with saying that "the time to buy is when there's blood in the streets." Rothschild made a fortune buying in the panic that followed the Battle of Waterloo against Napoleon. But that is not the whole story. The original quote is believed to be "Buy when there's blood in the streets, even if the blood is your own."
A contrarian is a person who holds a contrary position, especially a position against the majority.
The above image from a recent White house Press briefing has been widely touted. Here Trump is trying to calm the markets by showing the relatively low death toll from COVID-19, but one needs to be cautious about his motives.
No doubt many of us heard about his next controversial press conference, when Trump proposed possible medical interventions, such as UV light and injecting Disinfectants.
Leaving the partisan politics aside, there are some important cues for contrarian investors to note in this regard.
This US President is desperately seeking a cure, or a solution, to open the US economy, and thereby improve his chances of a second term. Frankly, nothing is more important to Trump. Let us consider this from a Contrarian perspective. Several US states and countries are about to open too.
Notable amongst them are Germany and Singapore.
According to Trump, Germany has one of the lowest reported death rates per 100,000 (Barr China and Iran).
Angela Merkel has made it amply clear that the opening of Germany would strictly coincide with the science, i.e. Testing and more Testing, to manage the spread of the virus within its population. The key word here is ‘Manage’.
In the case of the US, it will be down to the various Governors and their individual political motivations.
You must hear the opposing views of Governors from Georgia (Republican) and New York (Democrat).
Trump has two options:
1. Open the economy and secure a quick economic recovery, with an unprecedented taxpayer funded bailout. If the death toll in the summer pans out till the Autumn, he is back in the office. If the death toll continues to spiral, he loses the election. Incidentally, he wants the cheques to go out in his name. Not the US treasury!
2. Keep the economy closed until mid-May or early June and open it based on Data and Science like Angela Merkel. Economy collapses and he loses the election.
Hence, as illogical and unscientific as his approach may seem to an outsider, it clearly leaves him the best probability of a re-election.
There is also his own family business to consider: Hotels, Golf and real estate. Jared Kushner (Son in law + Commercial property Mogul + Senior White House Adviser) is probably squirming.
This, notwithstanding the 50,000 dead so far, or the likely second wave which we are already seeing in Singapore. One of the best managed.
Finally, a very noticeable matter in intensive care admissions in Italy and Spain: 80% were visibly Obese.
The difference in the USA is that, such obesity is widespread and especially amongst low wage earners. Plus a significant portion of the population does not have medical cover. For such people, heart conditions, diabetes etc are unlikely to have ever been tested or seen to by a Doctor.
The long view is that, countries with better public health care systems are more likely to survive the economic fallout from Corona.
As a contrarian if one is looking for investment opportunities, countries like Germany offer some plausible recovery prospects. On the other hand, one should also consider the impact of uncontrolled government borrowing/spending as in the case of Italy, and the US$ 8 trillion in stimulus from the US.
This is unless, very soon one of Donald’s Snake Oils is found to be effective, or the Chinese find a vaccine.
One thing is for certain.
The long-term debasement of National currencies will continue to hasten. Real physical currencies such as Bullion, and that which cannot be printed by the Fed are going to be winners:
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