Market Update 30 March 2020—Thoughts and Reflections on Current Affairs

By: Bryan Mark Rigg, PhD

As more light is shed on how the coronavirus has spread and how China has handled the crisis, there is mounting evidence that China has handled this pandemic in an irresponsible and criminal way.  It appears that it can only come down to China’s leader Xi Pinjing and his fellow leaders “pathetic” desire not to lose face—do they think we are sooo stupid that their infections are reversing when the whole world’s figures are rising despite the fact that the virus started there and in one of the most densely populated areas of the world!

This arrogant, and childish, approach to the crisis has many in the world in an uproar.  England, and its leader Boris Johnson (who actually has the virus), are “furious” with China and promise to punish China now, and even more so when this coronavirus is behind us.  According to British experts, China’s outbreak is at least 40 times bigger than it currently is reported as being by “this totalitarian, Orwellian” regime1. That means, China most likely has 3,500,000 infections and probably around 150,000 deaths2.

Think about it, if New York City currently has the largest amount of cases in the U.S. due to its population density and airport and seaport traffic making it a cross roads of the world and a natural market for virus spread, then just think of what is really happening in China which has hundreds of New York Cities for cities, all of which have much poorer infrastructure, cleanliness and government care.  I have been to China and I shake my head when I think about what must truly be going on in Shanghai (a seaport city with 29 million people, three times the size of New York City) or Nanking (a major river city with 8.4 million people) just to name two cities out of hundreds that are the size of New York City in China (China is slightly smaller than the U.S. with five times the population of 1.4 billion people).3

In short, China is, by and large, to blame for the coronavirus outbreak with Paul Miller writing in Foreign Policy: “That the Chinese government, beginning in late 2019, lied and directly contributed to the creation of a global pandemic, the deaths of thousands of people, and a global economic collapse, is evidently true, and they deserve blame and accountability for it.”4 One of the first things that England will probably do is to sever its contract with the now proven “dishonest” Chinese telecom company Huawei to “develop the United Kingdom’s 5G network.”5

The only action, it appears, that the Chinese will understand, is if you take money from their pockets.  This potential move by England against Huawei is probably a good thing since the U.S. Justice Department and the FBI have found that Huawei, like many Chines companies, has stolen billions of dollars’ worth of intellectual property and hardware from many major U.S companies—the Chinese government and business community for years have shown how they are; simply put, according to the Financial Times, they are “cheats, bullies and liars”6

The Chinese seem to be practicing the military philosopher Sun-Tzu’s adage that “when you are weak, appear strong” and when your enemy has an advantage, lie, cheat and steal to make sure his advantage becomes a weakness.7 This should not be surprising knowing that the current Chinese government was founded by a mass-murdering, totalitarian, Communist-thug in Mao Tse-Tung who many forget exceeded the likes of Stalin and Hitler, no small accomplishment, in slaughtering at least “70 million during his reign.”8 Mao’s picture still hangs prominently in Red Square and his system of oppression of people and information is still alive and well—in many respects, modern China, one could somewhat argue, resembles what possibly the Third Reich would have looked like today had Hitler won the European war.  In short, China is not our friend and not built upon our ethics and values.  We would be wise to harken to the advice of former U.S. Ambassador to Japan, Joseph C. Grew, when he noted, “To shape our foreign policy on the unsound theory that the other nations are guided and bound by our present standards of international ethics would be to court sure disaster.”9 Although Grew did not know it, he was definitely talking about Communist China of 2020.  I think it is very important that people do the best they can to NOT BUY Chinese goods—Huawei being the biggest one—for China’s behavior ethically business-wise and with the coronavirus cover-up.

Moreover, talk to your representatives and ask what we can do to punish China for its handling of this pandemic.  Now, to be fair, many nations, like Italy, Spain and even the United States, have made many mistakes with this pandemic, and we are, it appears, out of practice of dealing with pandemics since the 1918-1919 Flu epidemic although movies like Outbreak (1995) and Contagion (2011) should have awakened a social awareness that we need to be careful of viruses.  Of course, our Center of Disease Control is doing a wonderful job of fighting this battle every day for years and we need to be proud of the brave Americans there, as well as our nurses and doctors, who are working around the clock to protect us and live by the Hippocratic Oath—they are wonderful and we need to support and praise them.  Before one concludes that I want to demonize all Chinese, on this point, we also need to praise and remember the brave Wuhan Chinese medical professional, Dr. Li Wenliang, who tried to warn the world of this virus back in January, and who has subsequently died of it—China’s government tried to shut him up, and it has been successful shutting up many others like him since then.  We need not forget this brave, heroic doctor when condemning China’s current state of affairs.10

And besides holding China accountable for its horrible behavior, I think we also need to look at some of our own representatives and hold them accountable for taking advantage of the pandemic to personally gain these past few weeks.  As a Certified Financial Planner who is held to the fiduciary standard of not doing anything for others that I would not do for myself or loved ones (a standard our leaders should also live by), I was disgusted to learn about Senator Dianne Feinstein of California (Democrat), Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina (Republican), Senator Kelly Loeffler of Georgia (Republican) and Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma (Republican) who all sold millions of dollars of stocks before the crash of the market recently acting on allegedly “insider information” they received from privileged, government sources about how bad the coronavirus was going to become—once in possession of this information that they knew would break in a few days or weeks, they quickly liquidated their assets before the market tumbled this month.11 Feinstein, cowardly one might add, said her assets are in a blind trust and her husband makes all the decisions—well Senator, where did your husband get the “insider information” to sell those stocks before the stock market crash?  The answer—probably from you. And concerning the others, the only one who “might” be able to get by with seeing the writing early on the wall was Senator Burr who is an author of the “Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act,” so he may of really have understood what all the news was somewhat telling us in January.12

However, less than blemish free is Senator Loeffler, and her husband Jeffrey Sprecher, the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, who sold millions of dollars of their stock the very day on 24 January after she had “sat in on a briefing from two members of Trump’s Coronavirus Task Force.”13 Like with Feinstein’s husband, both Senator Dianne and Senator Kelly behaved like Lady MacBeths and took their husbands and themselves to a place of disrepute and utter disregard for those they supposedly serve—the people.  In contrast, they show they only served themselves. Their hollow defenses sound like Lady Macbeth and some of the discussions they must have had during their “Pillow Talk” with their husbands probably also echoed Lady MacBeth:

Glamis thou art, and Cawdor, and shalt be what thou are promised (these are both names for MacBeth for the area he ruled over and the battle where he won a victory).
Yet, do I fear thy nature; It is to full o’ th’ milk of human kindness
To catch the nearest way; thou wouldst be great,
Art not without ambition, but without the illness should attend it.
What thou wouldst highly that wouldst thou holily; wouldst not play false,
And yet wouldst wrongly win.  Thou’ld’st have, great Glamis,
That which cries “Thus thou must do,” if thou have it, and that which rather thou does fear to do,
Than wishes should be undone.  Hie thee hither, that I may pour my spirits in thine ear
And chastise with the valor the gold round, which fate and metaphysical aid doth seem to have thee crowned withal.14

In short, Lady MacBeth says here: “Do a lot of bad things Hubby, which I will advise you on, and we will have glory and riches!!!!”  However, in encouraging her husband to commit murder and to not think of the people and honest rule, Lady MacBeth would later find out that the “damned spot” of blood and crime would never wash away from her hands or that of her husband’s.  Now Senator Loeffler said she only makes financial decisions after talking to others pushing the responsibility on people besides herself (anyone in the financial world knows that ultimately, the client needs to take responsibility after given information by his or her advisor).  And it is no coincident that “her financial planner” acted immediately after her meeting with Trump advisors on the disease on the 24th of January!!!  In short, Senator Loeffler needs to explain why a fire was lite under her backside to sell her stock right after the meeting with Trump’s task force instead of a fire under her backside to inform people they need to get out of the market themselves and take care of their health.  Also, why didn’t her husband Jeffrey Sprecher, the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, tell her this was unethical and prevent her from making sales in their account that he would have had to also approve?  Well, the answer is that she convinced him of the wisdom of doing the unethical act. She seems to have first taken care of herself—all too human, but not what we want for an American leader.15 For example, after she and her husband sold $4.3 million of stock, they then “purchased stock in a maker of software that helps people work at home – just before millions of Americans were forced to leave their offices because of the outbreak…”16 Wow, she is pretty clairvoyant and prophetic isn’t she?  No, it appears she acted on information that was not public giving her an advantage over all of us other investors who were not in that meeting on the 24th of January.  Her behavior is, according journalist Nathan Robinson of The Guardian, very “unethical” and she should be punished for it.17

In the end, there are a lot of leaders right now, like China’s Xi Jinping, and Americans Senators of Dianne Feinstein and Kelly Loeffler, who the world, it appears, would be much better off not having.  Xi Jinping has, it appears, murdered thousands of his own people and many of other nations’ with utter disregard for dealing with the information given him by his medical and scientific community. His crimes against humanity are much graver than anything Feinstein and Loeffler have done, but they all show disregard for others in the face of what we really need from them; namely, tough, heroic action that puts the needs of the people they serve before their own needs of self-preservation and economic gain.

In the end, I encourage all of you to first take care of your health.  Stay away from others right now until we get a handle on things. Morgues are overflowing with bodies in New York and China’s crematoriums, you better believe, are working around the clock.  Saying this, the vast majority of us who get the virus will conquer it and heal. According to Dr. Anthony Fauci (who appears to be a real hero through this mess and a fighter for humanity), as the head of Trump’s Response team to the Coronavirus, says that he is “very confident that those who recover from the coronavirus are really protected from reinfection.”18 He has been fighting viruses for decades honing his skills early on being one of the best fighters against the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and 1990s. 19

With men and women like Fauci, which American has thousands of brave and smart doctors working the problem, it truly appears we will overcome this tragedy regardless of how many obstacles China has created for mankind with this disease.  We will overcome. We most likely still are in for many more weeks of bad news, but once we find a modus operandi for how to deal with the virus and get back to work, I think there will be an explosion of economic activity (just like we saw in 1920 and 1921 after the Spanish Flu epidemic which killed 50 million)20. America survived  the Spanish Flu epidemic and entered the Golden Age of the 1920’s (“Roaring 1920s”) and I think something like that awaits us in a few months, maybe a little over a year, but it is coming.  One sees such behavior from mankind after major events like these that knock us down—we always, as humans, get back up. That is why we are here because we have a long lineage of ancestors who refused to give up—some of their survival was genetic, but a lot of it was due to their strength of characters and strong wills.  And unlike the major crash of October 1929, we now have FIDC insurance for our bank accounts, Securities and Exchange regulations, Medicare, Medicaid, Unemployment Support and a TWO trillion dollar stimulus package signed in by President Trump just to name a few safety nets. Our grandparents and great-grandparents did not have such support in 1929 and they found a way to survive and we will too. Let’s look to the past for strength and the present with the information we have to work the problem, take care of ourselves and loved ones and, not only hope for a better future, but also do all we can to make it better.  As far as investments are concerned, the market is down roughly 30%. We are probably in for more rocky waters, but investing now is more attractive than it was two months ago if you were buying into the market, and in the long run, according to Warren Buffett, if you buy on the dips, you will be rewarded more in the future. Of course, depending on your age and risk appetite, certain investments might be more attractive than others, so please call me to discuss if you want to. And of course, if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me anytime.

Sincerely,

Bryan Mark Rigg, PhD

1Adam Payne, “Boris Johnson’s Government is Reportedly Furious with China and Believes it Could Have 40 Times more Coronavirus Cases Than it Claims,” Business Insider, 20 March 2020; https://www.businessinsider.com/coronavirus-boris-johnsons-government-reportedly-furious-with-china-2020-3
2https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/
3World BankUnited States Census Bureau, China population, accessed 29 March 2020.
4Paul D. Miller, “Yes, Blame China for the Virus: A Bungled Response in Western Countries is No Reason to Take the Heat Off China.  IF China Had a Different Government, the World Could Have Been Spared this Terrible Pandemic,” Foreign Policy, 25 March 2020; https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/03/25/blame-china-and-xi-jinping-for-coronavirus-pandemic/
5Adam Payne, “Boris Johnson’s Government is Reportedly Furious with China and Believes it Could Have 40 Times more Coronavirus Cases Than it Claims,” Business Insider, 20 March 2020; https://www.businessinsider.com/coronavirus-boris-johnsons-government-reportedly-furious-with-china-2020-3
6Kiran Stacy, “US Accuses Huawei of Stealing Technology From Six Companies,” Financial Times, 13 February 2020; https://www.ft.com/content/3174481a-4e8b-11ea-95a0-43d18ec715f5
7Ian W. Toll, The Conquering Tide: War in the Pacific Islands, 1942-1944, NY, 2015, 5. I have paraphrased the second part of Sun-Tzu’s quote in my sentence above.  The original quote I am basing my information on reads: “War is the Tao of deception. Therefore, when planning an attack, feign inactivity.  When near, appear as if you are far away. When far away, create the illusion that you are near. If the enemy is efficient, prepare for him. If he is strong, evade him.  If he is angry, agitate him. If he is arrogant, behave timidly so as to encourage his arrogance. If he is rested, cause him to exert himself. Advance when he does not expect you.  Attack him when he is unprepared.”
8Jung Chang and Jon Halliday, Mao: The Unknown Story, London, 2006, 3.
9Leonard Mosley Hirohito: Emperor of Japan, NJ, 1966, 154.
10Stephanie Hegarty, “The Chinese Doctor Who Tried to Warn Others About Coronavirus,” BBC, 6 February 2020; https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-51364382
11Dom Calicchio, “Dianne Feinstein, 3 Senate Colleagues Sold Off Stocks Before Coronavirus Crash: Reports,” Fox News, 20 March 2020; https://www.foxnews.com/politics/dianne-feinstein-3-senate-colleagues-sold-off-stocks-before-coronavirus-crash-reports
12Ibid.
13Ibid. See also Lachlan Markay, William Bredderman and Sam Brodey, “Senator Kelly Loeffler Dumped Millions in Stock After Coronavirus Briefing,” The Daily Beast, 20 March 2020; https://www.thedailybeast.com/sen-kelly-loeffler-dumped-millions-in-stock-after-coronavirus-briefing?ref=home
14Shakespeare, MacBeth, Act I, Scene 5.
15Lachlan Markay, William Bredderman and Sam Brodey, “Senator Kelly Loeffler Dumped Millions in Stock After Coronavirus Briefing,” The Daily Beast, 20 March 2020; https://www.thedailybeast.com/sen-kelly-loeffler-dumped-millions-in-stock-after-coronavirus-briefing?ref=home
16Dom Calicchio, “Dianne Feinstein, 3 Senate Colleagues Sold Off Stocks Before Coronavirus Crash: Reports,” Fox News, 20 March 2020; https://www.foxnews.com/politics/dianne-feinstein-3-senate-colleagues-sold-off-stocks-before-coronavirus-crash-reports
17Nathan Robinson, ÚS Senators Accused of Coronavirus Insider Trading are a Symbol of Moral Bankruptcy, The Guardian, 21 March 2020; https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/mar/21/us-senators-accused-coronavirus-insider-trading-are-a-symbol-moral-bankruptcy
18Ayln Woodward and Holly Secon, “Fauci Said He’s ‘Willing to Bet Anything’ That People Who Recover From the New Coronavirus are ‘Really Protected From Reinfection’”, Business Insider, 28 March 2020; https://www.businessinsider.com/coronavirus-fauci-those-who-recover-will-be-immune-2020-3
19Ibid.
20John M. Barry, The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History, NY, 2004, 452.