Without question, the headline story moving investor sentiment the most is the corona-virus outbreak and containment measures. I’m not an epidemiologist and I don’t have the ability to estimate the ultimate cost of today’s crisis relative to previous crises, whether it is as frightful as the Spanish Flu of 1918 or as limited as the 2001 anthrax attacks.
On the other hand, given the attention focused on the outbreak, some good news might have escaped your notice. For the first time in 6 months, US factory activity rebounded in January – finally hitting a positive number. While the core economic activity is in services, the slowdown in manufactured goods has been a notable drag on a significant portion (11%) of the US economy. This, more than anything, reflects positive traction in an area that has been sorely hit by trade tensions and a general malaise with overseas markets.