Even if the coronavirus fails to reach pandemic status, it will likely deliver a long-term shock to the world economy.
Karen Ho, an anthropologist who has studied the culture of Wall Street, wrote a Daily Beast column warning that the global economy will be shaken by the coronavirus, no matter how widely or severely the virus spreads.
"While it is of course difficult to predict how the stock market will perform, there were 346 companies set to announce earnings results from 2019’s fourth quarter on Friday; more than 1,100 were expected to release quarterly earnings reports the first week of March," Ho wrote. "Any additional news of lower-than-expected sales, production, inventory or profits will also drag down stock prices and related indexes."
The global economy has grown increasingly reliant on China since the SARS virus was identified in 2003, but mass quarantines and other widespread disruptions to daily life there could send ripple effects to trade partners around the world.
"Even if companies were immediately able to fully restart Chinese production facilities and bring everyone they needed back to work, there’s still a backlog to recover due to slim margins, just-in-time delivery, low inventories, and inventory management strategies -- as well as global transportation routes which have all been affected by quarantines and staffing shortages."
China offers protections to workers hit by quarantines, but the United States has no such protections for millions of workers without paid leave or medical insurance -- which could be devastating for those who lose time on the job or their job altogether.
"Ultimately, COVID-19 is a virus that has sickened tens of thousands of people in dozens of countries. Many of those people do not own stocks," Ho wrote. "But even a best-case scenario here likely means the road to 'back to normal' takes a while, even with better-than-expected jobs reports."