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Unique Times, Steady Approach & Pluto

Seattle | Sat 3/21/2020

Dear Friends, 

Just a note at the end of another volatile week to let you know we are all well, watching things closely, and available to discuss any particular concerns or new considerations you may have. 

Most importantly, all of us here at Newground hope you and your family are healthy and doing as well as can be expected given the circumstances. 

1. Unique Times, but Steady Approach

Our industry colleague Charles Blankley, CFA wrote to put current events into perspective: 

The volatility of the last few days is historic – both up and down. Three days this month made it into the top 10 up-or-down moves since 1926. And this bear market happened quickly – it actually ranks as the fastest bear market in history, because it took only 16 days to fall more than 20% from the high [the textbook definition of a bear market]. During the Great Recession it took roughly 175 days. 

All of this is moving so fast because the global economy hit a sudden stop 7-to-10 days ago as quarantines & shelter-in-place orders became more widespread. 

As in each of Newground’s prior messages, copied below for reference, we counsel calm and perseverance. Though the stock market is down from it’s high (and has essentially erased the gains made during Trump’s presidency) there are another six years of gains before that which long-term investors still have in the bank. 

Because of President Trump’s actions (cutting essential budgets and regulatory oversight) and inaction (denying the timing, importance, or significance of the coronavirus), we are likely to see worse before we see better. See The Atlantic article linked below for an excellent overview & synopsis. 

All this said, pandemics do run a natural course, so in time this one will also be done. 

On the brighter side:

2. Spitting Season

We heard from Nancy’s old UWa friend who’s a now a doctor in China. He reports that things are returning to normal – people are out, no longer wearing masks, and the familiar sounds of spitting in the street can again be heard! 

Here’s what our friend Dr. Andy Huei Ming Wang wrote: 

There is a palpable change of mood in the city of Beijing over the past few days. Gone is the persistent anxiety over being infected. In its place a cautious sense of relief. Signs of things returning to normal are visible everywhere: more traffic on the road, barbershops are open, and even restaurants are starting to allow guests to dine in. How is this possible when the rest of the world seems to be falling apart? Well, when you are no longer afraid, behaviors change.

The reported new cases of coronavirus infection was ‪around 3-4 a day in Beijing until 2 days ago – none local, all imported. So, if this is accurate and you are getting screened at seemingly every entry point in the city, and all those new arrivals are under quarantine for 14 days, then suddenly you don't feel so nervous anymore. How likely is it that a new case would suddenly show up in my neighborhood? Not likely, right?

With that mindset, people seem to be more relaxed. At least I am. More people are walking with their masks down – you can even hear the familiar sound of spitting. It feels normal again. 

I know the pandemic is far from over and this relative calm in Beijing may disappear, hence the much stricter border control by Beijing the last 2 days. But having [already] been through the same pattern of denial, panic, finger-pointing, school closures, travel ban, massive quarantine, and obvious loss of human life being seen everywhere now, I am grateful to be able to feel safe again. It feels like it has been a long time since the whole chaos started, but really the news about this virus only broke to the general public here in China about 8 weeks ago. 

So, hang in there all my friends in Seattle, Japan, Taiwan, New York, Australia, or wherever you are. Things will get better. 

However, before vaccines or effective treatments are available, containment is really the key. Still not too late. It takes time to work but it will suppress viral transmission if done decisively and quickly. It is uncomfortable and against human nature, and probably even against personal beliefs. But I would pour massive resources into temperature screening, testing, quarantine, and all containment measures possible. Health care workers and patients alike need to feel safe to go to the hospital. Society will not be able to return to normal if people remain scared, no matter how many checks or tax breaks you give them.

This report from a medical doctor on the front lines in China. 

3. Skype a Scientist (for families or classrooms)

And for all you parents now pressed into being homeschool teachers, a scientist client – a PhD oceanographer whose work focuses in part on fascinating new types of ocean sensors to help inform climate change research – gave us this wonderful resource: “Skype a Scientist” for science education delivered direct to you. 

Here’s what the program involves: 

Skype a Scientist matches scientists with classrooms [and families] around the world. We want to give students the opportunity to get to know a “real scientist”. This program allows us to reach students from all over the world without having to leave the lab!

We have thousands of scientists ready to chat – teachers can choose the type of scientist that will fit their classroom.

The student & teacher testimonials on the Skype a Scientist site are terrific! 

A group of people posing for the camera

Description automatically generatedURL: https://www.skypeascientist.com/for-families.html

4. Trump Presidency Over? 

A thoughtful piece in The Atlantic provides insight into the context, timing of events, and actual statements made in America’s response to the pandemic. I’m not sure the title is necessarily predictive, but here’s hoping! 

A screenshot of a cell phone

Description automatically generatedURL: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/03/peter-wehner-trump-presidency-over/607969/

In closing 

We wanted this message to be shorter than others just to be in touch, to maintain connection, and to offer support. Please call if there are things on your mind – we always stand ready to serve.

All the best,                 . . . Bruce  

PS:  If you have room for humor:

A picture containing bottle, transport, photo, black

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One family’s response to the market’s madness: break out the vintage cocktail glasses! 

And a perspective from man’s best friend:URL: https://youtu.be/p8oxndup1QM