Eye on the Market: Millions and Trillions

Answering questions on the coronavirus, on US equity market concentration and the megacap stocks, on the cost of Democratic Healthcare plans post-Iowa and on the student loan mess

What do we know about the coronavirus based on the latest data?

A few weeks ago, zoonotic epidemiologists (scientists who study the transmission of animal borne illnesses to humans) started ringing alarm bells on the coronavirus based on the rising rate of infections in Wuhan, train and flight bookings inside China, and estimated disease parameters on transmission and mortality. Case in point: the 2nd chart from researchers at the Life Sciences, Public Health and Mathematics Departments at York University in Toronto. Their initial base case estimate for Wuhan computed on Jan 22: a peak infected population of 163,000, and a mean reproductive number of 6.5 (compared to 4.9 for SARS in Beijing, and MERS in Jeddah 3.5-6.7 and Riyadh 2.0-2.8). However, they also modeled aggressive policies on quarantine and contact-reducing behaviors between infected and asymptomatic individuals, which they believed could sharply reduce infection rates. That's what appears to have happened since: their Feb 3 projection of peak cumulative reported cases in Wuhan is now around 25,000 (out of a population of 11 mm), and they expect a peak daily infection rate in Wuhan within the week. Infection rates in other large Chinese cities may be 1-2 weeks behind Wuhan, so total reported coronavirus cases throughout China could reach 150,000-300,000, with the range heavily affected by travel bans and contact rate behaviors/policies. This is just one set of estimates (other sources vary in severity), and it is impossible to account for any mutations.

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