Almost all stock markets took a big hit amidst the news of Omicron, a name that many are still struggling to spell and pronounce accurately. The global stock market dropped more than 5% in the last two weeks of November. This new Covid variant is said to be more easily transmittable and has forced many governments to scramble to shut their borders to African countries, and then extend the closure to other countries.
The questions on every investor’s mind now are:
- Will Omicron put a stop to the global vaccine re-opening strategy?
- Will this trigger another round of stock market crashes?
- Or is it an opportunity for bargain hunting?
I am not a medical expert, but over the years, I have developed a system to look at the world from the perspective of the financial markets. And the market is almost always right. In this article, I want to share with you my findings and analysis. I will refer back to some of my past articles to help you connect the dots.
Disclaimer: the stocks mentioned in the article are for education and discussion purposes. It is not financial advice.
Fear of Omicron may fade soon in the stock market
Last Sunday, the IMF warned that Omicron could slow global growth, so it is hard to believe that the impact of Omicron is going to be limited.
In Feb 2020, when Covid was just spreading as a global pandemic and the stock market went to chaos, I wrote an article titled: “The stock market will recover sooner than you think”.
I began the article with a discussion of H1N1 in 2009 where 415,000 Singaporeans were infected. H1N1 ended within a year, but we are still in the midst of Covid after two years. It seems to me that there may have to be enough people infected before we can put this pandemic behind us. Thankfully, with the strict Covid measures in place, many lives were saved, but the world has been prolonging this process.
Nevertheless, the 2020 stock market crash is still fresh in many people’s minds. So it is only natural for investors to worry that the same financial market mayhem may happen again.
But if you understand what happened in March last year, you know that the market didn’t crash entirely due to Covid, but rather it was a liquidity crunch.
Additional Readings: Stock market plunged: should you buy or sell now?
This stock market crash and the previous one are very different. Let me explain.
No prolonged impact – the market already knew
It is hard to judge if a person is telling the truth, but it is always easy to see where they put their money. It’s interesting to note that even before the top US scientist Anthony Fauci said that while Omicron is highly contagious, “it almost certainly is not more severe than Delta”, the market had already reacted.
I took screenshots of the next charts last week and they have helped predict what eventually happened.
First of all, let’s look at the personal protective equipment (PPE) makers such as Riverstone (blue line) and Top Glove (orange line). The stocks went up quickly after the news of Omicron broke out, but quickly pared down.
If you recall, the price of these stocks shot to the roof last year after the Covid outbreak, but the stock market is telling us that they don’t believe that there will be increasing demands due to extended Covid measures.
Secondly, we can look at Zoom, the new star arising from the Covid lockdown last year. The stock price has been falling since the beginning of the year and has shown no sign of recovering.
Lastly, we look at the vaccine and drug stocks. Both Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) stocks have gone up while Moderna stock fell. This is in line with the information that we heard so far. Pfizer says that their vaccine can “still protect against severe disease from the strain” and GSK said that their “tests indicate their antibody-drug works against Omicron”. At the same time, “Moderna chief predicts existing vaccines will struggle with Omicron”.
To put the things together, here is what I think:
- At this moment, the stock market does not regard Omicron as a threat.
- The market believes governments will continue with the re-opening despite the pressure from the Omicron variant.
- The push for vaccines, booster shots and Covid drugs will continue for a considerably longer period.
Who is selling fear?
In Tom Cruise’s movie Mission Impossible II, a fictional Australian pharmaceutical company (hey, what is an Aussie Pharma you can think of, why not the US?) BioCyte Pharmaceuticals has developed a vaccine called Bellerophon to combat the Chimera virus.
Turns out, BioCyte Pharmaceuticals actually made the deadly virus to create a big market for their own vaccine. Luckily, there’s a good guy Tom Cruise (from the US) to stop the big bad boy.
I am not here saying the pharma companies created the virus, but in the capitalist world, any right-minded pharma company will want to profit from this situation. This helps when “selling fear” and is the best way to attract eyeballs for online and traditional media.
Telling the world that everything we have built up is collapsing will attract far more attention and money than cheering for a normal life.
What I am trying to say is that that we need to accept the following:
- New Covid variants may emerge year after year.
- New vaccines and drugs will be developed.
- Learning to live with Covid is the best we can do.
I know what you are thinking. How about we buy into these healthcare companies to profit too? If you look at the chart of iShares Global Healthcare ETF (IXJ) which tracks the stock performance of the global healthcare sector, it is interesting to notice that the sector rallied before the Omicron announcement, but then proceeded to crash in the second half of November too.
The market is not stupid.
What really worries the market?
So if you agree with my analysis above, you know it is not the Omicron Covid-variant, but something else that is driving market volatility. What is it?
If you look at the timeline, it is very interesting to notice the following:
- The market started turning downward on Nov 16.
- On 26 November 2021, WHO officially designated Omicron as a “variant of concern”.
- On 29 November, the market recovered from panic selling.
- On 30 November, Powell said the Fed will discuss speeding up tapering.
It was Powell’s intention to taper earlier and the Fed finally acknowledging serious inflation that spooked the market, not Omicron.
It’s important to note that the US Fed has been referring to inflation as “transitory” while all along and they knew it wasn’t.
If you have followed my blog for a while, you know that I said, “Inflation is the only way for the world economy to get out of this global pandemic.”
I wrote an article in June 2020, here is how I started,
We were on the verge of the greatest retirement crisis in history and COVID-19 just triggered it. In the decades to come, globally, we will witness hundreds of millions of people slipping into poverty in their retirement years, not because they lost money in the stock market, but because they are savers.
I suggest you read this article: 5 ugly truths of the coming retirement crisis and how to deal with it.
This is a huge topic and I will write a separate article to discuss it. In it I will explain:
- Why does the US want to acknowledge the existence of non-transitory inflation now?
- Will it cause financial market mayhem?
- What is the best strategy to hedge the tapering risks?
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Stock markets swing wildly from day to day on the smallest of news, rally, and crash, and celebrate or vilify the most inane data points. It’s important not to get caught up in the madness. Instead, stick to your homework.
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