Let's just face it. The darned thing's too easy to get. You can't go anywhere without touching a surface that might have the virus. You'll definitely get sick. You can't stop touching your face, because you touch it a thousand times a day and you can't suddenly stop doing so. You forget and touch a surface and then your face, or you mistakenly put out your hand for a handshake, or there's a sneeze somewhere you're going to get sick real sick. The sickening inevitability of it all is now sinking in.
So, what does the Fed do? It cuts rates by 50 basis points. The reaction: a blip up and then a resounding thud down.
Because it is not responsive. It does nothing much at all.
Because it is not a cure. It is not a ventilator. It's not a hazmat suit. It's not a respirator. It can't sterilize all the surfaces. It doesn't kill the darned thing or impact the spread of it or even the speed of the virus. It won't even let you shake hands.
So who cares?
Fed Chief Jay Powell told us we should. He said it could somehow boost business confidence. Yet, although I don't know a soul who has gotten a lower mortgage despite the decline in rates.
I cared about how wrong it was.
When the market flew up on the news I was incredulous. I said it was a sign of panic from the Fed and a signal that anyone who is complacent about what is about to happen to our country because of this coronavirus is a dreamer or the Fed wouldn't have made an emergency rate cut. And it wouldn't be 50 basis points, double what it had to be, if we weren't about to see a spike in unemployment to beat the band.
Now, of all the commentators you see on TV or read, I have been the most adamant in financial crisis times for the Fed to ease. I led the charge in 2007 for the Fed to cut rates. That was when I screamed that the Fed knew nothing about real business and how bad it was and how the banks were all going to go out of business -- which they almost all did. Then I castigated Powell for his continual rate increases in 2018 that almost caused a recession. I begged for rate cuts when there was talk about rate increases for heaven's sake.
So my rate cut bona fides are about as good as they come. Which is why it may come as a shock to you that I didn't want this cut. It spooked the most important market there is: the bond market. And when 10-year Treasury rates went below 1%, that was all she wrote for stocks, which are closely linked to bonds right now. Remember the connection: Interest rates go down because of a cessation of economic activity -- no demand -- as well as a flight to quality. The Fed's actions Tuesday told us that it expects a cessation of economic activity, and while the Fed doesn't want you to be afraid, you naturally are and when you are afraid, you sell stocks. They are too risky. Even the ones with high dividends. The rally in bonds and concomitant drastic decline in yield for the 10-year spooked me. Are we actually going to go to negative rates where savers get hurt? Sure seems possible. I have told you again and again, do not overthink this: Lower rates equals lower stocks.
It's ironic that the key meeting in Washington wasn't the Fed, it was with the leaders of the American pharmaceutical industry that the president convened yesterday.
I spoke to Regeneron (REGN) CEO Len Schleifer Tuesday about the meeting and he said it was a realistic assessment of the situation. He called it a gathering of optimistic people when there was no reason to be optimistic. He said that no one had anything nearly liable to work yet and while people were hopeful about the Gilead (GILD) anti-viral treatment, there wasn't much chance it could change things.
He also said, though, with so many brilliant people at these companies there can be surprises, like the surprise that Len's partner, George Yancopoulos, had when he was able to get mice to stimulate cells that stopped the Ebola outbreak.
Len thinks we need a Manhattan Project to beat this one, and its possible, because of the superiority we have over all other countries when it comes to drug development.
Until then, we remain in a precarious place because there is no vaccine and we are "naked" in its path.
Now, I always say, "there's always a bull market somewhere," and I promise to find it for you. When rates go this low, you re-ignite any rally that's in gold. I say re-ignite, because it's been rallying for some time and just paused. I would buy gold aggressively on this action, especially as a protection for whatever vision the fed has that we don't. I like the stocks. I like Barrick Gold (GOLD) . I like Bullion. And I like the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) . It's precisely what you should buy into the chaos that the Fed may potentially see.
Next bull market? After the first day of a sell-off based on rates going too low you pick at stocks that have good yields. I mentioned Verizon (VZ) Monday. I also said Pfizer (PFE) worked. I like AbbVie (ABBV) with a 5% yield about to close on Allergan (AGN) , which has a very important new drug that stops migraines in its tracks. As the chief spokesperson for the American Migraine Foundation, I can tell you this is a wonder drug and it will move the needle when that deal's done. There are a ton of drug stocks with good yields and they are overly fixated on a win by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders tonight. I say that if he wins, you can buy these stocks at cheaper levels for certain.
Finally I like the stocks of medical companies that have zero economic exposure and have started to roll over even as they are doing well. Here I like DexCom (DXCM) for diabetes and Medtronic (MDT) for all sorts of devices. They will come back when the S&P futures stop their willy-nilly selling.
I want to be more bullish on the super techs, the Salesforce.coms (CRM) and the Splunks (SPLK) , both great companies, and stocks just like them, but they often rely on trade shows and traveling to close deals that might not be doable in this environment. It's tough to close big deals at home even with the red hot Zoom Video (ZM) .
Once again, it is never too late to reiterate that I dislike anything, travel, leisure, dining out as well as autos, which are weak ex-Tesla (TSLA) .
Now we are very oversold, so you can expect a bounce in those sell names later this week. Don't panic into a maelstrom.
But as for the buys? I think they make ton of sense. I know I am early, but you can't wait until the selling ends. You have to buy them in the teeth of the sell-offs as we did Tuesday for my charitable trust, which you can follow along by joining the Action Alerts PLUS club. You can't be perfect, but being ready with your stocks on a sell-off of this magnitude, is often long-term manna from heaven.