The first quarter of 2020 will be remembered in decades to come as a time of significant and extremely compressed changes to the global economy, society, and the capital markets. Over the span of less than 30 days beginning in midFebruary, mitigation of the COVID-19 pandemic emerged as the sole focus of policymakers, business owners, employees and investors across the developed world. Fearing the direst projections from early epidemiological models – some of which projected millions of deaths from the virus – governments mandated an unprecedented economic lockdown and urged everyone but essential workers to stay home and “shelter in place.”
In the United States, jobless claims spiked horrendously, from 3.3 million in the week ended 3/21/2020, to a revised
6.9 million as of 3/27/2020. Millions more job losses have continued into April. At the time of this writing, nearly 17 million employees have lost their jobs over the past several weeks. Commercial air traffic fell by more than 90% year-over-year during March, and industries from bars and restaurants, to movie cinemas, to hotels, theme parks and casinos have ground to a standstill. Economists project a GDP contraction of 30-40% for the 2nd quarter, although most admit that forecasts are difficult to make without greater clarity on when lockdowns are going to be phased out.