We focus on airlines, hotels, and restaurants. But there’s another reality because many are sharply thriving.
Sometimes we don’t remember how hard it is to lose, even though being a winner can be even harder. But make no mistake, this time is not going to be different than any other in history: many innocent will suffer, and many will get out with a nice reward.
The first corporate numbers after the outbreak are appearing, and despite the headlines, the result is very much mixed. As Howard Yu wrote at Forbes: A crisis can distract as much as it can reveal. This week has seen earnings announcements from Big Tech: Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Apple. In the depths of fear and confusion, the market has shown how immune these tech giants are to the financial fallout of COVID-19 compared to the rest of the global economy. Each has made robust gains in sales of their own, despite the shrinking economy and skyrocketing unemployment.
On the opposite side, CNN reported today a completely different story: international airlines are starting the painful process of scaling back their businesses as the prospect of a quick recovery from the coronavirus pandemic fades and carriers prepare for a world where people fly much less. This week alone, Europe’s top airlines said they would have to shed tens of thousands of jobs as they race to slash costs because of the rapidly deteriorating medium-term outlook for aviation. Exxon posts its first loss in decades, and Chevron cuts spending. The tourist sector is also experiencing severe problems, waiting for a miracle to happen if we are lucky enough to get a faster recovery than expected. In any case, the 2020 summer season is more than at stake.
Economy seems to be suffering…
At a macroeconomic level, we have not even lights and shades, but everything looks quite gloomy at the moment. As Financial Times reports, US jobless claims hit 30m on coronavirus lockdowns, millions of SMEs are struggling to survive with the help of an unprecedented amount of public money. GDP numbers regarding the first quarter of the year are negative everywhere (we could not expect anything else after weeks at a halt), and many governments are talking about coming back to the unemployment rates we saw after the financial crisis. Nothing new. This is the ugly discussion about the V-shaped, U-shaped, L-shaped, or swoosh-shaped curve trend for the rest of 2020 and the coming 2021. Pundits stuff. Many are preparing for the future, but the majority is having a tough time, though hoping to have better conditions asap (From surviving to thriving: Reimagining the post-COVID-19 return).
…but stock markets not that much.
But when we have a look at the stock market, where we think we have general catastrophic losses, we see a picture with many nuances. Of course we see the value of many companies tumbling, like American Airlines (-63% YTD), Boeing (-58% YTD), or Dow Chemical (-38% YTD), we also see Amazon (+25% YTD), Microsoft (+10% YTD), Citrix (+27% YTD), or Apple (+11%). Just a quick view shows that the majority of the Dow 30 shares today have a higher value in the market than 1st January 2020. It may seem surprising, but numbers don’t lie. Zoom, the video calls company, has doubled its value. And in general, Dow 30 index has “only” lost 15% of its value. It is “only” 10% lower than one year ago (remember, during the Great Depression stock markets lost 90% of its previous value. Ninety). Maybe, as The Economist mentioned, tech giants should seize the moment to detoxify their relationship with society.
And some are feasting about it.
The scenario and the forecast will probably change completely when we have a vaccine (in half a year, maybe?). Still, one of the lessons of these latest weeks is that the situations are, in many senses, very business as usual. For sure, this situation is going to have long term effects, but the results so far, in general, seem not to be as bad as many media are showing. Dramatic for millions, unacceptable for billions of people, with challenges ahead we never faced before, but much less “the end of the world” than some want to depict. With markets in really high volatility, some are making a lot of money. Not only Jeff Bezos and Eric Yuan (Zoom founder) have seen their wealth growing fast during the latest weeks. Just to put a couple of examples, people like Pierre Andurand or Crispin Odin have had a fascinating month, financially. The Andurand commodities fund shot up 63 percent last month after he bet on a fall in the oil price due to Covid-19. The 61-year-old Odin has boasted of making a packet — estimated at £115million — during last month’s stock market carnage, by short-selling shares he thought would be hit by the virus, including shopping center owner Intu.
Every man for himself?
While 90 percent of the world is demanding the governments to help the losers of the situation with as much money as needed, the winners are getting some tap on their shoulders. Everyone is staring at them like “look at those lucky ones; they had their opportunity and seized it.” Even sometimes we praise them when they drop some crumbs to help in any aspect of the situation (most of the time, showing where the governments are lacking leadership or capacity to cope with the problems). Shouldn’t we be thinking about giving a hand to solve the issues as fast and as well as possible? I know the winners are paying their taxes so the government have resources to helps those not so lucky ones. But doesn’t it seem we are putting the blame and burden on governments during hard times, and asking them not to bother when things go well? Aren’t we somehow, sometimes, a bit of a hypocrite? Or in the end, maybe we do that because we think it’s ok to leave everyone is on his own? If you smart, you’ll thrive; if you lose, you were not good bold, or persistent enough, so you deserve to be doomed.