Basis Points – January 28, 2020

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Above the Fold

Should We Fear a Coronavirus Epidemic?

Stocks sold off yesterday as concerns about the containment and economic effects of China’s viral outbreak continued to escalate. Some experts warn that up to 100,000 may already be infected by the virus, with nearly 90 confirmed dead in China as of late yesterday. This strain of coronavirus is unlike any encountered before, and like many new and lethal viruses, tend to originate from animals. Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome (MERS) are both caused by coronaviruses, that experts both believe started with bats. SARS spread rampantly across 37 countries in 2002, infecting 8,000, while the MERS outbreak last year was less contagious, but more deadly. 

The World Health Organization has already deemed the virus an emergency for China, but hasn’t yet included other countries in its warning. There’s likely to be an economic impact as consumer spending on entertainment, travel and even gifts are likely to be curtailed. As of now, it’s simply too early to tell just how much of a human and financial toll this latest outbreak will cause. For reference, one detailed study estimated SARS’ global economic impact to be more than $40 billion


Three Things 

  1. Tragedy in Calabasas  – A Sigorsky S-76 helicopter carrying basketball legend Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others, crashed in a remote, hilly area of Calabasas, California. Extremely foggy conditions were reported, but the accident causes were not immediately known. It may be months before the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board complete their investigations and determine what caused this tragic disaster.
  2. Who Stole $5 Billion From Investors Last Year? – A study released by the Financial Conduct Authority, U.K.’s financial regulator, revealed that high frequency traders (HFT) cost investors $5 billion last year. Called “latency arbitrage,” HFTs race to the exchanges just milliseconds ahead of others to capitalize on market-moving information.
  3. Tech Giants Call for More Government Regulation (No, Really) – As regulators and Americans grow increasingly concerned over data encryption, privacy, artificial intelligence and more, companies like Microsoft, Facebook, Alphabet and Apple are pushing for new laws. The massive tech firms realize that regulation needs to be put in place and will be working with lawmakers on how to best formulate legislation. 

Did You Know?

Microscopic Money

Switzerland just minted the tiniest coin ever produced. At less than 3 millimeters in diameter, and weighing just 1/500th of an ounce, the pure gold coin would be easily lost in anyone’s pocket. Engravers, working on special software, recreated an image of scientist Albert Einstein, sticking out his tongue, as the face for the coin. The collectible has a nominal value of 26 cents, yet costs $205 to purchase from state-owned Swissmint — magnifying glass included. 

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