SWINE FLU, SARS, EBOLA, AND OTHER VIRAL DISASTERS MAKE MARKETS SICK
In spring 2009, it wasn’t yet obvious to all that the major global bear market had bottomed in March. Stocks were on a massive tear—huge upward volatility—but maybe it was just a temporary bounce within a bigger bear market. That can happen and is hard to see with certainty when it does because at bear market bottoms and after, volatility is usually so huge and folks are so terrified, they can’t see a new bull market forming. And there is always much to fear.
Plus, there was a new threat forming—pigs. No, not PIIGS—Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and Spain. We wouldn’t worry about the PIIGS debts until 2010. In Spring 2009, it was actual pigs we feared—swine—and a flu strain folks feared would sicken us all, stop the economy, and generally doom the world via pandemic.
I can make light now because, quite obviously, while a very few folks did die tragically and more got sick (all of which is truly sad), the bigger threat to global well-being never materialized. But back in Spring 2009, the media speculated endlessly we were facing a terrible, deadly epidemic, on par with the 1957, 1968, or, worse still, the super-deadly 1918 flu pandemic. And with whole swaths of humanity sick or possibly dying, folks feared a major drag on the economy and the impact on stocks—particularly since we were already mired in a recession. Folks lined up for scarce vaccines, and wearing surgical masks became vogue for airline ...