Coronavirus – Time For Panic Or Opportunity?


The headlines over the last few weeks and in particular, over the last few days have looked something like the following:

  • Global Markets Fall for Fifth Consecutive Day
  • Stocks Fall Again as Coronavirus Spreads
  • Coronavirus has Major Impact on the Stock Market
  • Coronavirus Market Sell Off
  • Another Bad Day in the Markets as the Coronavirus Spreads

As you can imagine, this has had many investors selling their shares in a panic and running for the woods.

Never in human history has information been so freely available to us due to social media and the internet. For the most part, this is fantastic. However, with so many opinions and news headlines around, we can sometimes get caught up and begin to believe everything we read.

Now, I am not saying that the Coronavirus is not something we should be worried about at all. Many people have died from this illness and it has been a tragedy for those affected.

What I am saying is that this is not the first time (and likely not the last time) that we will see a major global epidemic impact investment markets.

The below table shows some past epidemics and the change in the US market following the outbreak.

Epidemic Epidemic End 6-Month % Change of S&P 12-Month % Change of S&P
SARS April 2003 14.59% 20.76%
Avian flu June 2006 11.66% 18.36%
Swine flu April 2009 18.72% 35.96%
Ebola March 2014 5.34% 10.44%
Measles/Rubeola June 2019 9.82% N/A
Source: Dow Jones Market Data

As can be seen from the above, following recent outbreaks, the US market has managed to rebound not only quickly, but also quite substantially.

Therefore, it is important not to forget some key fundamentals when it comes to investing.

Firstly remember, we invest for the long term and therefore short-term fluctuations and market events should not worry us.

Secondly, why did you start investing in the first place? Has the outbreak of Coronavirus changed your investment goals? If not, then why panic and sell because of a new media headline? If your investment goals remain the same, then so should your investment plan.

I am not saying to buy now because the market has dropped, the market may continue dropping over the next few days and weeks. We do not know where the bottom of the market is and neither does anyone else.

What I am saying is that it is important to stick to your plan and continue investing rather than selling in a panic because the markets have dropped and media headlines are in a frenzy. 

To summarise, ultimately the market’s reaction to the Coronavirus will come down to the severity of the virus and just because markets have managed to rebound following outbreaks in the past doesn’t mean that will be the case this time. It is however important to keep a clear head when it comes to selling your shares and to not let media headlines and social media panic cloud your judgement.

One final thought, remember what Warren Buffett, arguably the greatest investor of all time, once said:

“Be greedy when others are fearful, and fearful when others are greedy”

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