COVID-19 Update: Confronting Fear

By Dr. Kelli Criss

Faith and information are your friends in these uncertain times.  We take time to reflect on both in today’s blog, COVID-19 Update: Confronting Fear.  Although we grieve the illness and loss of life around the world as the direst consequences of this viral outbreak, we limit today’s discussion to fears around the economic impact of COVID-19.    

Starting in China, reaching South Korea, Japan, Africa, Australia, Europe, and now, the United States, the coronavirus dominates the world’s headlines.  According to the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering, 318,662 confirmed cases exist.  Globally, 13,672 deaths have occurred as a result of COVID-19. There are 94,704 people who have recovered from the virus.   

Let’s consider the impact of a viral outbreak on the economy in the short and long-term while knowing faith and information are the answers to fear in our world.  

Global Supply Chain Disruption 

February 24, the Dow Jones Industrial Average experienced a 1,000-point drop (McCabe, 2020) and the S&P 500 plunged over 100 points as news emerged about swelling cases in Italy and South Korea. On March 16, the Dow plunged again by 3,000 points (McCabe, Hirtenstein, & Ping, 2020) in response to the expanding pandemic’s interruption of supply chains around the world.  Likewise, as of March 16, the stock market index of 500 large companies which measures stock performance on the U.S. Stock Exchange, the S&P 500, increased or decreased by 4% for 6 days in a row (Herron & Hajric, 2020), which is outrageously volatile movement. 

Why is the pandemic so powerfully impacting supply chains, in particular? China, as one of the globe’s biggest economies, is not only the center of COVID-19’s origin, but also at the center of myriad supply chains.  Whether it’s your electronic devices, your car, or your blue jeans, the globe receives products and depends on the industrial strength of China.  Apple (Wakabayashi, 2020) and Adidas (Germano, 2020), for example, have already declared their profits will be hindered by China’s supply chain disruption.  The world’s economies are intricately connected.   

Falling Oil Prices 

Like manufacturing, tourism, airlines, and energy are experiencing a slump due to the coronavirus. On Monday, March 9th, we saw 24% single-day drop in Brent crude, which is a particular oil viewed as a yardstick for global oil prices.  Catapulting the market into turmoil, this one-day plunge of oil prices was the largest since 1991 during the Gulf War (Hodari, 2020).  Again, on Wednesday, March 11th, oil prices tumbled (Faucon, Said, & Hodari, 2020).  

 Oil prices are falling because of the decreased demand caused by less travel from lockdowns globally and fewer goods being transported.  Countries, like China, are producing fewer goods so they need less oil.  It’ simple – the law of supply and demand.  Too much supply and too little demand means prices decline.  Also contributing to the fall in oil prices is the escalating Oil War between Russia and Saudi Arabia.  

This Oil War involves Russia and Saudi Arabia’s recent talks about stabilizing oil prices by reducing their production of oil.  Their negotiations have fallen apart.  Saudi Arabia responded by ramping up their oil production which of course serves to reduce prices rather than raise them. Russia responded by similarly pumping more oil. 

Here in the United States, having the world market flooded with oil will make lower gas prices at the pump right now.  In the long term, energy corporations and many nations who rely on high oil prices for revenue, will suffer.  We remember well in 2014-2016 when energy stocks plummeted and oil workers were laid off as oil prices bottomed out with the same radical plunge we’re seeing now (Thompson, 2020).   

Recovery: A History of Market Response to Viruses 

The past performance of the market to viruses can be seen in the movement of the S&P 500.  For 6 and 12 months following a virus outbreak, the S&P 500 performance indicates what we can expect in the months following the COVID-19 pandemic (DeCambre, 2020).  See the table below.  

Epidemic Month end 6-month % change of S&P 12-month % change of S&P 
SARS April 2003 +14.59% +20.76% 
Swine flu April 2009 +18.72% +35.96% 
Cholera November 2010 +13.95% +5.63% 
MERS May 2013 +10.74% +17.96% 
Ebola March 2014 +5.34% +10.44% 
Zika January 2016 +12.03% +17.45 

 
Although each epidemic listed in the table above varies by global region, symptoms, chronology, and context, one thing’s clear – the market recovers in the long-term after dropping in the short-term, immediately after the virus outbreak.  

The Weapons of Our Warfare 

Fear doesn’t just drive drops in the Dow and S&P 500.  Fear can take control of everyone whatever their beliefs.  The weapons we have to confront fear are information about what’s really happening and our faith in God.  We endeavored in this blog to arm the faith community with information about the current situation and the history of our economy’s response to viral outbreak.  The CDC and President Trump have outlined plans to help us protect ourselves and our neighbors from COVID-19.   

According to counselor, author and Hope for the Heart founder, June Hunt, fear is part of your body’s way of preparing to take action.  It sets off a chain of chemical responses created by God to increase circulation to muscles and to speed up your heartbeat so you can have the strength and speed you might need to fend off or flee a threat.  We know that God is helping us be physically ready for whatever comes our way even as we feel fear.  Thank goodness we have weapons to keep fear from making our decisions.   

We can turn our thoughts to God’s divine weapons and protection. 2 Corinthians 10:4-6 (New American Standard Bible) says: 

For the weapons of our warfare are . . . divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.  We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. 

Indeed, we have supernatural tools for calming our minds.  We can focus on the peace and security God offers us.  Jesus’s words in Luke 12:22–25 (New American Standard Bible) help us remember how valuable we are to our heavenly Father: 

“Do not worry about your life . . . Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds! And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life’s span?” 

Meditating on God’s Words 

June Hunt (2013) recommends in her book, Fear, meditation upon the 23rd Psalm by saying each line repeatedly and emphasizing one word in the line.  If there are 5 words in the line, then you repeat the line 5 times.  For instance, Psalm 23:1 (New American Standard Bible) reads “the Lord is my shepherd.”  Upon first saying verse 1, you emphasize the word, “the.”  On the second repetition, you stress the word, “Lord,” etc.  You repeat the verse until you have placed a stress on each word of the verse.   

We join the faith community in prayer for our nation, our leaders, our healthcare workers, our first responders, and families affected by COVID-19 around the world.   

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References 

DeCambre, M. (2020, February 24). How the stock market has performed during past viral outbreaks. MarketWatch. Retrieved from https://www.marketwatch.com/story/heres-how-the-stock-market-has-performed-during-past-viral-outbreaks-as-chinas-coronavirus-spreads-2020-01-22 

Faucon, B., Said, S. & Hodari, D. (2020, March 11).  Saudi Arabia Signals Bigger Oil-Output Boost. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from https://www.wsj.com/articles/saudi-arabia-to-boost-oil-output-even-further-11583911022 

Germano, S. (2020, February 19).  Adidas, Puma warn of Coronavirus blow. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from https://www.wsj.com/articles/puma-tops-hopes-but-warns-of-coronavirus-hit-11582106613 

Herron, J. & Hajric, V. (2020, March 15).  U.S. stocks plunge 12% in biggest rout since 1987: Markets wrap.  Bloomberg.  Retrieved from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-03-15/yen-gains-on-virus-worries-kiwi-slides-on-rates-markets-wrap 

Hodari, D.  (2020, March 9). Oil prices collapse after Saudi pledge to boost output. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from https://www.wsj.com/articles/crude-prices-collapse-after-saudi-pledge-to-boost-output-11583748166 
 

Hunt, J. (2013). Fear: No longer afraid.  Torrance, CA: Aspire Press. 

McCabe, C.  (2020, February 24). Dow Industrials close 1,000 points lower as Coronavirus cases mount. The Wall Street Journal.  Retrieved from https://www.wsj.com/articles/stocks-fall-as-coronavirus-spread-accelerates-outside-china-11582533308?mod=hp_lead_pos1 

McCabe, C., Hirtenstein, A., & Ping, C.K. (2020, March 16).  Dow plummets nearly 3,000 points as virus fears spread.  The Wall Street Journal.  Retrieved from  

https://www.wsj.com/articles/stocks-dow-slide-after-fed-slashes-rates-11584310328

Thompson, M. (2020, March 11). Saudi Arabia doubles down on threat to flood the oil market. CNN Business.  Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/11/business/oil-prices-saudi-arabia 

Wakabayashi, D.  (2020, February 17). Apple signals Coronavirus’s threat to global business. The New York Times.  Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/17/technology/apple-coronavirus-economy.html 
 

Resources 

CDC – COVID-19 Information 

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

Hope for the Heart, Counseling Ministries 

https://www.hopefortheheart.org/

 Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering – COVID-19 Statistics Map 

https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html

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