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Monday, April 27, 2009

BENEFITS OF THE SWINE FLU SCARE

Beginning on April 29, the first year anniversary of my daily blog, I will feature, alphabetically, each of the 195 countries. I will start tomorrow with The World. Much of this will be from the CIA Factbook. Every country will be featured before the year is over. I hope to improve from the currently 64 countries visiting this site thus far.
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As predicted last week, the world has gone bonkers about the “dreaded” swine flu. People have stopped flying into Mexico. The country closed down their schools. CNN spends nearly half their time on this perceived epidemic. This is because they know that viewers are interested in this developing calamity.

Again, though, let me indicate that at least half a million people are killed annually from flu complications. In the U.S., 36,000 died last year. As Mexico is about a third of the U.S. population, then roughly 12,000 must have also last year passed away from this virus in 2008. This is equivalent to 33/day, or, say, 200 since the scare was announced almost a week ago.

The latest tally amounted to a death toll seemingly approaching 200, although, still, only 26 have been confirmed to have contracted this new swine flu. These numbers should of course increase, but, keep a tab on the relativity to past deaths. Yes, it is suspected that this particular variety might come with a 5% death rate (as opposed to 0.1% for the “normal” flu), but there is usually a kind of reverse contagion: the killer flu viruses are usually not as infectious. The 1918/9 Spanish flu was an exception.

Thus, my prediction is that government will look good by being so proactive to stop this disease in its tracks. But, then, this would have probably occurred anyway if no one did anything. By responsibly announcing this potential pandemic, Mexico will financially suffer, severely. No wonder China was so "irresponsible" about the avian flu, maybe hoping that it would just go away...which is exactly what happened.

If you had been enterprising, you would have guessed that people would stop travelling a bit so airline stocks would drop. Hotel stocks should also have suffered Monday morning. Pork futures would have taken a hit, and the largest supplier, Smithfield, surely would have lost value. Corn, too, which is fed to pork, would have been affected. Crude oil should have dropped. Thus, you could have made a fortune selling short. This happened in 2005 and 2006 with the more serious bird flu

Did this happen today? Of course it did! Smithfield, Starwood and United Air sunk more than 10%. Then again, you should have bought pharma stocks, for they are theoretically in line to supply the cure. GlaxoSmithKline went up 8%. Also, vacation sites such as Hawaii should see a small boost in tourism, as people stop going to Mexico.

If this is all is so predictable, why am I not a billionaire? For the same reason you aren’t. In my case, it is mostly because I mostly confine myself to pontification, not action. I did, though, place a few dollars on Ford when the market bottomed out a month or so ago. This stock has tripled.
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The Dow Jones Industrials dropped 51 to 8025. World markets were mixed. Gold also fell, $8/toz to $906. See box on right: oil did sink, and is now below $50/barrel.
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Tropical Cyclone Kirrily at 45 MPH is lurking around southeastern Indonesia.
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Pat,

Interesting view. Unfortunately, not every country will benefit.

Zuojun