The Media vs. the Market on Omicron

This scenario plays out over and over again…

A crisis occurs… The facts on the ground change… Things start looking up… And yet, the media keeps beating on the “fear” drum for many more months – or perhaps even years.

You might remember the “double-dip recession” narrative from the 2008 housing crisis, for example. Cable-news outlet CNBC kept beating on the fear drum all the way into 2010…

But here’s the thing…

The market had soared over 60% in less than a year at that point. And not surprisingly, the facts on the ground had changed dramatically by then, too.

It didn’t matter to the media… The market responded, but the media kept beating on the fear drum.

These types of situations remind us of a quote often attributed to John Maynard Keynes. He reportedly once said, “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?”

As a rule, we avoid politics. But we need to make one thing clear…

When it comes to COVID-19, the facts on the ground have changed. The market is responding… But once again, the media is still busy beating on the fear drum.

Let us show you the data the market is seeing…

We’re sure you’ve heard about the Omicron variant of COVID-19 by now. Since its emergence, the media seems to be beating on the fear drum louder than ever.

The main points are straightforward… First, Omicron spreads easier than previous COVID-19 variants. And as a result, a lot of people are getting it. You might’ve even been forced to change your holiday plans because someone you know got it.

Thanks to these main points, the media concludes that “this is the worst it has ever been.” And of course, fear stories lead the news… So the media keeps beating on the fear drum.

But importantly… the market doesn’t seem to be reading the same news.

Scientists discovered Omicron in early November. Since then, the market has traded mostly sideways. In fact, it’s up about 2% in that span… That’s far from “beating on the fear drum” material.

So yet again… it’s the media versus the market.

Is the Omicron variant making COVID-19 the worst it has ever been right now? Or are things still getting better as the market’s 2% gain since its discovery seems to imply?

Well, the outbreak of Omicron hit the United Kingdom before it got to us here in the U.S. It’s one of the places hardest hit by the new variant. And the numbers from that country are clear…

According to the U.K. Health Security Agency – which is similar to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) – the U.K. reported 198,348 confirmed Omicron cases as of December 29. But in the same span, it only reported 57 deaths from Omicron. That’s a death rate of about 1 in 3,500.

In other words… you can see a clear decoupling of COVID-19 cases and deaths.

What does that mean?

The facts show that the Omicron variant is by far the most dominant strain of COVID-19 circulating right now. But at the same time, its death rate is less than the flu…

According to the CDC, the 2018-19 flu season had an estimated 29 million cases and approximately 28,000 deaths. That’s a death rate of about 1 in 1,000.

That’s right… Based on the data from the U.K., Omicron appears to be killing 1 in 3,500 people. Meanwhile, a recent flu season here in the U.S. killed 1 in 1,000.

Have you ever seen the stock market go down because of the flu? Me neither… And I’ve been doing this a long time.

With January now upon us, the economy is ready to hum along… Don’t get spooked as the media keeps beating on the fear drum about a new COVID-19 variant.

It’s a great time to buy any dip in the market. And perhaps we’ll also soon see that Omicron is the good news we need to end the pandemic… It’s a variant that looks less deadly than the flu.

The market already sees the facts… Like Keynes might say, it’s time to change your mind, sir.

Good investing,

Carlton Neel

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