Monday, April 06, 2020

The world has coalesced

into one giant mess
of hate and unrest

So let's all sing along
a little bleeping louder
to a happy song
and pretend it's all okay.

"Happy Song" by Bring Me The Horizon* 

This was definitely the mantra (another BMTH album) of the markets today, as a mild overnight rally picked up steam throughout the day and just never let up.  If ever there was a day to validate the importance of the computers and lines drawn by technical analysts today was that day.  About two weeks ago, I mentioned that despite dismal data, stocks had started a sharp reversal and most of the charts said stocks were going back to 2660 or so, roughly 20% off the bottom.

Where did they goose stocks to today 2661 (or 2663 at final settlement).  It's comical that the markets are this predictable but it's the reality when the stock market has become the world's simplest video game and everyone is playing by the same rule book.

** EDIT: overnight the futures traders decided to push stocks to EXACTLY the next technical level 2725.  Remember when investing was about buying a company in the hopes that they would make a profit on their products? Yeah, neither does anyone else, now it's just gambling and the charts run the world.

Now that we have hit this number it becomes an interesting point of contention - is it a new floor or is it a ceiling?  I suppose the people that equate the stock market with the economy (generally, people that aren't very bright but I'm not pointing any fingers) will be thrilled with move and will probably start sending out more autographed copies of the stock charts.

However, even the most optimistic traders are starting to see the second and third derivative impacts on the economy.  People are getting optimistic about a return to normal in the Northeast by 5/1 but when you follow local news in other parts of the country it's staggering how long they are projecting an impact from COVID19 (things are being cancelled through August). Also, the thing that everyone seems to forget is that the problem with our economy is not COVID19 but an economy that has been on living on life support with a constant flow of excessive debt at every level (consumer, student, corporate) and COVID19 merely exposed our economic issues as too many were operating without a safety net.

It will take years to tell the final full story of COVID19 when we are fighting bad data at every corner.

Via NYC Council Health Committee - "It’s not just deaths in hospitals which are up. On an average day before this crisis there were 20-25 deaths at home in NYC. Now in the midst of this pandemic the number is 200-215. *Every day*."

Won't someone please think of the poor banks?
I occasionally have this dream where the my fellow citizens suddenly realize they are being robbed by the nations banks in the name of helping us through another bailout but then I wake up and remember, that nope we still are a nation of the banks, by the banks and for the banks.

* As part of the $2 trillion bailout was the payroll protection program - a $350 billion treasure programs to assist small and medium businesses meet payroll.

* Well, the banks were hesitant to lend because it only takes a few loans to go bad to make the whole program unprofitable.

* Late today the Fed announced that it would establish a market for these loans if packaged and the end buyer of the loans is likely to be the Fed itself.

* So these loans are now effectively risk free and the banks will earn 1-5% "administrative fees" for loans which won't be on the banks balance sheet.

* In essence, because our Federal Government is so inept at it's job, we have to rent the services of the banks for $10 billion to pass your tax dollars to small and medium businesses.

I know when we're talking billions and trillions, a $10 billion transfer of wealth from you the taxpayer to your bank (who is still paying you 0% on your money, while charging you 15% on your credit card) seems like a small violation but it's not about the size of the violation it's about the continued efforts by our government to bailout the banks at the expense of everything else.
Stat of the Day: via @realwillmeade
The indicator Warren Buffett and every top hedge fund uses to value the stock market is Stock Market Capitalization to GDP ratio
Historical average is 0.8
in 2008 it bottomed at 0.5
Today its still a whopping 1.2

To go back to 0.8 the average, stocks would have to drop 30%

And I would add that those calculations are before accounting for rapidly falling GDP.  When you cut GDP 10-15% in 2020, it makes the market look even more expensive.  If you wonder, why every weekend people predict a Warren Buffett buying spree and every weekend he passes up the opportunity, it's because he's waiting for value and we aren't in the value range.
Quote of the Day:
Isaac Asimov from 1980:

“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States…. [It is] nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’”

Quote of the Day: Part 2

"Our entire society has forgotten how to take responsibility. We have forgotten that life consists of setbacks and that you have to have safety margins for difficult times" - Felix W. Zulauf
Daily dose of humor:
@daddydoubts "we're done with homeschooling, we just do anger management now"

@nayele18maybe "There’s nothing quite like removing a couch cushion and searching for a remote control to make you appreciate how truly disgusting your family is."

@mom_tho "My thoughts on Tiger King: I'm doing very well in life and should literally never worry about anything ever again."


*if you find the right video online you are likely to see me in the middle of the BMTH mosh pit during this song :)

Sunday, April 05, 2020

Weekend wrap-up

Since about mid-February, I've had then next 10 days circled on my calendar.  April 5 to April 15 should be the worst of this season's COVID19 outbreak in the Northeast. 

The death tolls will be staggering and are likely under-reported by a factor of 2-3x.  It has stunned me to watch leaders in our country act "surprised" by the timing and spread of this disease because its progression has been very easy to chart if you've watched the way it spread around the world. 

So, a week from now I expect New York State will have turned the corner and many of our surrounding states will also be trending in the right direction because we will have curtailed the spread of the virus through our lock downs and isolation efforts.

Unfortunately, large sections of the country did not react with the same speed and thus, the virus is likely to continue to rage in these parts of the country through the end of April.  On May 1st, we will have a difficult choice to make as a nation.  Open up for business and risk a major resurgence of the disease in June or continue with the lock down status for another 3-4 weeks when huge population centers on the East and West coasts are already on the mend.

This is not an easy choice but I suspect we will open back up for business on 5/1 with qualifiers - social distancing will still remain in effect (so no concerts/sports) - and the result will probably be some form of resurgence of the crisis in June.

Unfortunately, I'm equally worried about the ugly, American capitalist showing up early to start celebrating this week as the deadliest week of the outbreak takes hold in the US.

To that end, stocks are already up again tonight (+2% or so) as people want to get optimistic about the turnaround before the worst of the crisis arrives.
Stat of the weekend: In the past 10 years the US added 22.8 million jobs (we can debated the validity of that number another time) but initial claims in the last 2 weeks have wiped out 47% of those job gains.

Something to watch out for - when the economy reopens many retailers, hotels, restaurants will hire people right back.  This will lead to some staggeringly strong jobs numbers.  Don't let any politician try to take credit for the "greatest jobs creation in history" when this happens. 
via @birdyword

A description of what real contact tracing looks like in Hong Kong and how it compares to our response.....

"A friend caught covid-19, so I was put in a HK (Hong Kong) quarantine camp for close contacts 'til it'd been 14 days since I'd seen them. Been out a little while now, never had symptoms of any sort."

Now this isn't a realistic option in the US, but think about that response - every person who came in contact with a known carrier was removed from society and placed in quarantine in a facility (probably an empty hotel or college dorm).  It gives a little perspective on just how dramatically different government responses to this crisis have been.
If you're interested this game plan in the New England Journal of Medicine for defeating COVID19 by the first week of June echoes many of the points I've made in recent weeks.

1) Form a national, unified command
2) Make millions of tests available
3) Supply hospitals with proper equipment
4) Separate risk groups and treat accordingly
5) Mobilize the public
6) Learn through real-time, fundamental research

All solid advice, I hope someone listens.


Friday, April 03, 2020

Friday fun

For everyone thinking about jumping back in the water to buy stocks - remember we've just lost 10 million jobs in two weeks and stocks are still up 5% from the lows 15 months ago. 

There is an interesting push/pull going on in the markets - a lot of people want to buy this bottom in the market thinking that it we will turn on a dime once things reopen. On the flip side, there are a number of people lining up thinking that this is the big one.  A great recession or possible depression, that will take stocks down 50%, 60% or even 80% further from here.  These people are waiting for one more good rally to get short the entire market. 
Morgan Stanley is the first of the big investment banks to say publicly that the economic impact of this shutdown will linger.  They are now predicting a more U shaped recovery without a return to 2019 levels of economic activity until the end of 2021 (21 months away). 

Unfortunately, this may be an optimistic view.
Random hard to believe fact of the day - the Federal Reserve's balance sheet increased by $586 billion in the past week.  That's 30 billion more than they added during the entire QE 2 process which lasted 8 months.

In related news, it's interesting to note that in 2007 the US had a $19 trillion economy with a Fed balance sheet of $850 billion and total Federal debt of $9 trillion.

In 2020, the economy in the US will be under $22 trillion with Fed balance sheet of $9-10 trillion and total Federal debt of $23 trillion. That's not a good trajectory.
On the bailout plan's paycheck protection program - Secretary Mnuchin is imploring banks to participate because they can earn 5% in 90 days risk free. He stated today to the banks that "you'll never have this chance again." 

Do you know what 5% in 90 days works out to? Roughly 20% per year, which is probably more than what your local loan shark in Poughkeepsie would charge. 

Reminder - the bailout is not designed for you and I, it's designed to line the pockets of the banks.
Daily dose of humor:

I made my very first loaf of bread today. Much like the pioneers, I started by going on to Pinterest and typing "Italian bread recipes easy."

“Just a little midnight snack”, I whisper, knowing full well I have no concept of what time it is, what day it is, or what the words ‘little snack’ even mean"

"Remember when we didn't cry when we accidentally rolled off too much toilet paper?"


COVID19 - In pictures

I'm going to take a different approach this morning and just share a few of the things I've seen over the past 24 hours. 

For every photo that I see like this of NYC as a ghost town...

Post image

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I see one like this - which is allegedly the #2 train in NY last night.  There are countless stories like this around New York and as long as free movement is allowed, I don't know how we get back to normal.  Imagine what percentage of people on this train are essential - healthcare workers dealing with patients, etc.

Hey @NYGovCuomo - every school district in NYS has school buses that are sitting idle right now, maybe mobilize them to alleviate the strain on the subway system?

From NYC where the National Guard is deployed and 45 morgue trucks are now parked near hospitals to deal with the overflow of deceased citizens because our funeral homes can't keep up.
Post image

This is a great visualization of how disjointed our approach to this crisis has been as a nation.

Post image
So, NY, VT, MA, WA and.... Louisiana (good for them) are testing aggressively though it remains under 1 in 100 people being tested.  However, Texas, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and ..... California are poised to be the next wave. 

Okay, well maybe those states with lower testing are already in lock down mode and that will slow the spread of the virus.

Hmm, Texas, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi....ugh.  This map uses anonymous cell phone geo-location data to measure average distance traveled by cell phone per day.  This is an average so if you drive 5 miles to the store but your kids are at home and your wife hasn't been outside since 2017, then the average of your 4 phones would be under 2 miles/day.  The Northeast and the West are doing a great job.  The southern plains and the South, not so much.

I'll have a further post later today covering the unemployment numbers and some economic data but this photo is worth sharing after yesterdays record jobless claims.  Someone took the NY Times cover from last week with an iconic graph showing 3.3 million jobless claims in a week and updated it for what it would have to look like after yesterday's 6.6 million number.


Daily humor: Quarantine day 44 - Captain's log: I am no longer allowed to chew, swallow, exhale or sigh in her presence.  That is all.


Thursday, April 02, 2020

Yuuuuge, Amazing, Beautiful Jobless Claims

I imagine overhearing that in the White House today. 

"Biggest number ever!  10 times larger than Reagan's number. Amazing. Why even have an election, everyone wants me to keep this up, right?"

VP Pence then bends down to whisper "Umm, jobLESS claims means that people are out of work, so a big number isn't really a good thing..."

Last week I mentioned that when jobless claims came in at 3.3 million, that it was likely just the tip of the iceberg and that this week would likely be much worse.  Most economists did not agree with me as the consensus was for job losses to come in at "just" 3.5 million (which would still be another record). 

Shockingly, the insiders at Goldman had an outlier estimate of 6.0 million losses (boy, it's almost like someone inside the government - Mnuchin - is privately texting them information.....).  This should make everyone take note of Goldman's estimate for Q2 GDP decline of 34%.

Anyway, the final number was just announced - 6.6 million jobs lost last week.  Again, these are just numbers so here is some context:

1) The previous high for jobless losses was 665,000 in 1982.  Today's number was ten times as large!

2) That's 10 million jobs lost in 2 weeks.  During the entirety of the great recession in 2008-2009 we lost 8.7 million jobs.

It is important to note that many of these job losses are first derivative losses from businesses being shutdown - retail, hotels, restaurants - so while these are huge numbers it is possible that many of these jobs would come back fairly quickly when the world reopens for business.

However, the troubling part is that the longer things stay shutdown, the more likely companies are going to start laying of more permanent workers.  This second derivative wave of job losses will be more painful for the economy because the average wage of a software engineer, accountant or architect is 5-10 times that of a restaurant worker, so the loss of these jobs will drastically reduce spending in the economy and GDP further.  Yes, stocks have fallen from their all-time highs but they are actually only down about 10% from this time last year.  The downside risks right now are so significant that I don't think people are adequately prepared for what could lie ahead.

The market's reaction this morning was very odd.  Stocks were up universally, 1-2% across the board in the US and after the horrific jobs data they stayed elevated.  I'm not sure if people were confused or hoping that it would prompt another Fed panic move or what, but stocks stayed much higher for about 4 minutes before falling back to flat. 

Who knows what today brings---I would guess that every fantasy spending bill that Congress has dreamed about will get traction for the next round of bailout bills.  Green New Deal, Medicare for All?  Those would be cheap compared to what Congress will probably dream up.

The problem is that no amount of fake spending and liquidity can fix what ails our economy right now.  We need to reopen our economy but we can't do that without  the risk of killing maybe 1-3 million fellow citizens.

Right now we have 12 million people in the US over the age of 80.  If they represent the bulk of fatalities from COVID19 it would mean 1 out of 4 will die if we went back to a free economy.  Think about the first 4 people you know over the age of 80 and understand that it's likely one of them will die if we go back to work. 

These are not easy choices.

Not that anyone asked but here's my plan and I'm not an infectious disease expert but I play one on the internet -

Shut everything in the US down.  I mean everything - institute quasi martial law for the whole country. If you are out driving you need to be a doctor or a nurse going to work, otherwise you are going to jail.  No groceries, no gas, no going for a run (hey, I'm guilty of this every day), nothing.  Stay home or go to jail.

Do this for 30 days and on May 2, we re-open for business. 

The alternative is that we will be dealing with this in July and our economy will be heading into the Great Depression part 2.  I'm not trying to be hyperbolic, but we need some hyperbole to get the attention of leadership.  These are historic times that people are treating like it's just another blip on the radar.

As my friend says - Airport drinking rules are in effect so cheers!

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

It must be an election year

Because everyone that isn't getting a bailout is getting free government money!

Today, just days after the government reallocated $6,000 of your future tax payments to various corporations and back to you in the form of a $1,200 payment, word must have reached Washington that you still have some extra money kicking around in a can somewhere.

In light of some staggering GDP estimates for the second quarter (ranging from -9% to -34%) the White House and Congress started clamoring for a new $2 trillion infrastructure program.  So, yeah, that vacation you were going to take in 2021 and 2022, no the government will be needing that money to give it to contractors building a Second Avenue subway, a new JFK airport or maybe a $500 million port of entry in Cape Vincent for the Wolfe Island ferry.

Hey, of all the things we can spend on
a) bailouts
b) tax cuts
c) infrastructure

I'll chose C all day long.  The problem is that we just wasted $1.7 trillion on a corporate tax cut that went up in smoke, now we are gifting $2 trillion to our corporate overlords and while we are at it, sure let's give the notoriously efficient contracting industry $2 trillion to waste on bridges and tunnels for a world where commuting might be a thing of the past.

The best analogy for this line of thinking is "Hey, I know I just lost my job, but you know what, we need to buy that second house up on the lake because it'll make me feel better and those sweet real estate commissions will boost the economy a bit."
Jim Grant has forgotten more about interest rate analysis than I'll ever know so when he speaks it is worth listening to him.  Unfortunately, because he is not a rah-rah cheerleader for the US markets you almost never see him on CNBC, but he was interviewed in a German publication today and it's worth a read if you have the time - Covid19 Unmasked an Essential Weakness in Finance.  These are a couple of the choice quotes....

"Covid19 unmasked an essential weakness in American finance which is owed to the past 10 years of artificially cheap credit." 

"Very low interest rates and easy access to leverage also sustained the unnatural lives of profitless companies that would otherwise not have been in business."

That's a very articulate way of saying what I've been preaching for the past decade.
Unfortunately, it doesn't seem that the severity of the situation is resonating with everyone in the US.  This graphic from is incredibly stark (and a little unnerving that google has this data).

This shows footfalls (basically people walking/running) in various parks around the world this past week and weekend relative to historical averages.  Note how in Europe the numbers are almost 0 relative to history.  In the US, while the weekend data showed a sharp decline (some of that could have been weather related) but look at the data during the week!  New York's Prospect Park was significantly busier all week than usual despite the fact that NY is ground zero in the COVID19 fight. 


I don't know how to get this message out - we can stay in and hope to get back to normal in a month or we will be fighting this disease in May, June and beyond.

FT Graphic: @jburnmurdoch

Quote of the day:  
Michael Krieger
Can we stop pretending we live in anything resembling a “free market.” Our economic system is socialism for Wall Street/oligarchs and Hunger Games for everyone else.

Daily dose of humor: 
"The hardest part about going back to the office will be giving up breakfast dessert"

"I call loading the dishwasher "quantum physics" because no one in this house can do that either".

"Friend: I'm just taking things one day at a time.
Me: [Not remembering what day it is or how time works] Totally, I was just saying that tomorrow."

Thanks again for all of the links/shares.  I appreciate it - feel free to drop me a note (blantier2 @ gmail .com) or follow along on twitter @brianlantier

Monday, March 30, 2020

When ignorance reigns, life is lost...

I've always loved that quote from Zach de la Rocha and it has never resonated with me more than it does today.

via @cryptokakuji

Despite my rantings, the lure of free money will once again buy Congress all of the goodwill they want. 

I'm going to try to break this down in way that might make a bit more sense.  Imagine that you are a married couple with joint checking, etc.  Imagine that your spouse took $6,000 out of your joint checking, flew to Las Vegas and spent $4,800 on the some of the activities in available in Las Vegas.  When she returns home (aha plot twist, huh?), she gives you the remaining $1,200 that came from your joint checking would you be happy?  Of course not.  Well, this is the $2 trillion bailout in in a nutshell.

$2.0 trillion works out to $6,000 per man, woman, child in the US.  Including all of the retirees, the 8 month old babies, and everyone in between, the government is borrowing $6,000/person or $24,000 in the case of my household, so that they can send everyone a check for $1,200.  Huh? I'm only okay at math, but borrowing $6,000 to give me $1,200 doesn't seem like a good model.

So where is the other $4,800 going that the government has borrowed on your behalf going?  Oh, I'm glad you asked....


* $44 billion for student loans???
* $100 billion for hospitals
* A huge $4.3 billion for the Center for Disease Control (a bit late, no?)
* $260 billion in extra unemployment benefits
* $425 billion in the slush fund for corporations (seriously?)
* $350 billion for small business loans to tiny companies like Marriott.
* $274 billion to states

Drill down a little further and we find that there are tons of targeted breaks for the little guy in this bill like:

1) Tax breaks for private jets and their users.  I don't know about you but this was a huge one for me and reminded me that Washington really does care about the little people. My private jet has been sitting idle since the Superbowl, but since I no longer have to pay a 7.5% excise tax and my jet company is now exempt from fuel taxes I'm ready to fire it up and escape to St. Barts.  It is funny, though, I think I still have to pay tax on the gas that I put in my car, how about you?

2) Well, okay, maybe you aren't in the real money, private jet class, quite yet.  Maybe you are just your regular couple making a few million dollars with some huge real estate holdings, there should be a way to ease your pain in this time of uncertainty, right?  If you manage to have $500,000 loss or greater on your real estate property business this year, I mean who doesn't, then you can offset an unlimited amount of income from other sources.  So let's say, for example, your last name was Kushner and you married someone named Ivanka, and you managed to have $30-$135 million of income in 2019, if you manage to take a huge loss from real estate in 2020 it is possible that you could avoid paying taxes on your regular income ---- hypothetically.

3) Well, if you don't qualify for a corporate jet tax break or real estate mogul tax break maybe you can benefit from this perk in Nevada....


The state has kindly created a grid pattern on a concrete parking lot for the homeless so that they can socially distance. 

Painted boxes on pavement for the homeless and tax cuts for private jet users. 

As a Childish Gambino sang..."This is America".

We are fighting three pandemics - COVID19, Ignorance and Greed.

Daily dose of humor: 

* Eating pizza rolls in a bowl with a spoon? This is considered proper etiquette in quarantine.

* For those of you keep track at home, today was March 83rd.

* Thought of the day: How are people with secret families handling this pandemic?


Sunday, March 29, 2020

Data nerds unite!

Since, it's the weekend there isn't a great deal of market moving news to discuss. In thin trading, the futures are off another 1% Sunday night after the "open for business date" was pushed to 4/30 which I feel is still way too optimistic.

While this coming week will be a sad week in NY State as cases of COVID19 spike and deaths accelerate, I am hopeful that eventually, New York City will start to turn the corner in 10-12 days though it will be a long 2 weeks and we need to remain vigilant with regards to social distancing.

To that end, I'm going to share a couple of data models that I found helpful to understanding why it is so important that we keep our distance.  These are just models but they are based on the science of virus transmission, so they are pretty valid.

This past week, I had to make a trip to our local retailers for supplies.  I was appalled at the lack of distancing, the lack of understanding of the dangers this poses to those over 60 and a general sense of "meh". 

We can chose to take this seriously as a nation and start to heal in 30 days OR we can continue down this path of half measures, bailouts, and rambling press briefings and our country will still be shutdown on July 4th.

If you find these visual data tools helpful share with your friends.

In this first visualization we look at the impact of 2 stores where 3 people are infected out of a total of 30 people in the store.  On the left side of the diagram, you have the way we currently are operating (random movement).  On the right side of the diagram is an organized line-up.  You'll have to click the video to play it after you follow the link.
[OC] Grocery store crowd visualization - sample size : 30 persons entering the store, 3 of which are initially infected - Left : free random movement, Right : organized queue from r/dataisbeautiful

This second visualization is a little longer but it shows the various ways to approach a virus like this - the assumptions are 2,000 people in the community. 
Scenario 1 - free movement - 200+ deaths over 10%
Scenario 2 - reduced interation - 50 deaths - 2.5%
Scenario 3 - strict lockdown - just 7 deaths - 0.3% (almost 70% not infected)
Scenario 4 - self-isolation is ignored - 170+ deaths because some portion of society keeps reintroducing the virus by violated self-isolation rules.  

Last week, I said I was pleasantly surprised the way people were reacting to the rules on being out in public however, a week later, I've become more concerned that people are going ignore isolation suggestions (particularly as this goes on and on) and that is going to put us in a Scenario 4 situation.

Working on a COVID-19 simulator, here's a few scenarios visualised [OC] from r/dataisbeautiful


Thursday, March 26, 2020

Markets want to eat their ice cream for dinner

Have you ever seen a toddler that just wants to skip dinner and head straight for the dessert table?  Well, this the way the markets have acted this week.  They've decided that we'll have a recession (though one is not yet declared), it will be fast (far from a certainty) and that the recovery will be rapid so you better buy stocks now.  So, let's price the recovery before the economic impact of COVID19 is even understood - the markets have never been so detached from reality in the US.

Markets and the economy:
As I mentioned the jobless claims numbers would be comical if the situation wasn't so dire.  Expectations of 1.5 million would have been 2.5 times the previous high peak of 695,000 in 1982 or 665,000 during the 2009 Financial Crisis.  Instead the number came in at 3.28 million, almost 5 times the previous all-time high, in statistics numbers don't get more absurd.

Let's do a little back of the envelope math - 250 million adult age people in the US and 60% are in the workforce or 150 million people probably had a job at the beginning of March.  Thus, 3.28/150 = roughly 2.2% or 1 out of every 50 people in the US lost their job last week.  That is jaw-dropping, especially, since it might be worse next week. A visual representation via Bloomberg - that includes oil shocks, 79-82 recession, 87 crash, dotcom crash, Great Financial Crisis and this week.

So, of course stocks soared 6% because..........oh god, who knows. I suspect the technicians wanted to see a 20% bounce of the bottom which would retest one of their drawings on their charts and that's exactly what was achieved today.  I worry, that people are so desperate to put the collapse in stocks behind them that they are ignoring the fundamental collapse in the US economy which is only going to get worse in the coming weeks.

Favorite tidbits of the day:

* if you take a loan from the Florida Small Business Emergency COVID fund, it is will be interest free in year 1 (great!) and the interest will be 12% on the unpaid balance thereafter. 12%!!!

Question Mark What GIF by moodman

* Included in the final text of the bailout bill is language that allows the Federal Reserve to conduct secret meetings without having to provide minutes to the American people.  Ugh.

* It's interesting to get feedback from people on the ground in China. Beijing is back open for business but with few exceptions the city seems to be operating at 25-30% of capacity and many businesses are still at a virtual standstill.  The idea that the US is going to flip the "Open" for business sign in 2 weeks is embarrassing and ignorant of the facts on the ground.


Again, thanks to everyone that has come back to the blog.  Almost 1,000 daily readers this week is fantastic considering I was dormant for almost 4 years.

Twitter: @brianlantier for snarky thoughts throughout the day.

Jobless claims at 8:30

I'll jump back on here after 8:30 with the actual breakdown but it's anyone's guess just how bad this number may be.

It really depends on how quickly workers filled out the forms online.  For example, there are almost 15 million Americans that work in leisure and hospitality and that industry has ground to a halt, what percentage of them will file new claims this week.

I've seen estimates of

* 1 million jobs lost (which I think is low considering, Canada lost a million jobs last week with 1/10th our population)

* 2 million

* Even 4 million from Citibank

but without a clear understanding of when people started filing, it's impossible to know.

So, the jobless claims came in just slightly above the consensus estimate of 1.5 million with 3.28 million jobs lost. 

The best headline I saw after the announcement

"Stock futures surge after job losses only hit 3.28 million last week." 

That is not a headline I would have predicted at the start of 2020.


Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Q: What does it take to turn a conservative into a socialist?

A: A $1200 check. *

* this is just a joke :)

French economist Frederic Bastiat lived from 1801 to 1850. Here's a quote of his that might have some relevance....

"To rob the public, first we must deceive it. The trick consists in persuading the public that the theft is for its advantage; and by this means inducing it to accept, in exchange for its property, services which are fictitious, and often worse." 

It sounds like there is a some last minute haggling going on re: The Great Rescue and that's why we didn't get a vote on both the House and Senate bills today. 

I've covered some of the bailout goodies before, here are some of the smaller provisions in the bills so far:

1) Payroll tax deferral for employers.  I can't get a clear answer, but I assume that this is the 6.2% of payroll that employers are responsible for paying.  You, the employee, still get to pay yours, it's just that your employer gets to defer paying their portion until 2021/2022 (half in each year). In theory, this might provide a little extra cash flow. However, it takes a lot of payroll tax at 6% to equal saving one job. 

2) NOL carrybacks extended to 5 years.  Okay, we're getting in the weeds here but let's say you have $30 of income and $10 in tax in year 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 ($150 in sales and $50 in total tax over 5 years) because you were a profitable business.  Now 2020 arrives and your business is crippled, you actually lose say $200.  Under the current rules, you can only go back 2 years to offset previous income or $60 dollars of revenue and claim a refund of $20.

By extending it back FIVE years, now your $200 loss offsets ALL $150 of previous income and magically the government will send you back all $50 of taxes you've previously paid in.  Sweet gig if you can get it (oh, and you still have $50 of credit to offset FUTURE INCOME).  Thankfully, I live with a CPA who can explain these things to me.

This is a popular plug into every bailout package but it destroys the Federal Budget.

3) Four months of unemployment. Surprisingly, this includes an odd self-certification clause that says if the employee "quits due to #COVID19" they are still eligible for unemployment.  This is a staggering departure from the historical role of unemployment which has served to protect those that were involuntarily separated from their job.
I love this quote because it accurately describes the current state of our "markets" which are certainly in rough seas --- "if you know that you can die, don't get in the boat. Certainly don't put your kids and all of your money in the boat" @KeithMcCullough via Twitter.

If you remember, yesterday stocks caught that updraft and ended up above a critical price point, this lead to further chasing of the rally and people really want to believe pushing stocks up 4% or so by mid-afternoon.  However, a last minute snag in negotiations popped those hopes and stocks finished with relative modest gains.  I won't even bother talking about the overnight moves because they are pointless right now. 

There is some concern that since the bailout has been a foregone conclusion for over a week, when it's finally passed stocks may reverse in a "sell the news" event.  We won't know until the news hits the tape what type of reaction it will warrant.
NY passed a somber milestone with 80 deaths attributed to the virus today.  I worry that by next week this might be approaching 1,000 people per day before the effects of our social isolation start to showing some positive impacts on new infections.  I'd be happy to be wrong on this forecast but so far everything has been fairly predictable with the progression of the virus in the US.

Via @AliceDreger (national journalist)
If you need a wake up call, here it is: My husband was on a large conference call of American Medical School Deans last night.  One asked about legal coverage for pulling people off ventilators to give them to others more likely to survive, ie, not being charged with murder. Here we are....

Humor of the Day:
A visual representation of how $1200 will help average Americans....


Tuesday, March 24, 2020

My phone must have been on "Do Not Disturb" this morning

Did you get your personal phone call from the President and the Vice-President this morning?  Oh, I guess we're on the same "too small to call list" because apparently after the market fell on Monday despite historic intervention from the Federal Reserve, the President and Vice President held a private call with hedge funds and investors this morning. Shortly, there after stocks were up 5% and 8 hours after that they finished their best day since 1933 up (11%).

Hmm, since I have a daughter in AP US History, perhaps I should ask her what was happening the US in 1933 (Hint: it starts with Great and rhymes with Impression)?

Again, I hate technical analysis because it reduces investing to a simplified game of who can draw the straightest line.  HOWEVER, the vast majority of the market is being run with some input by technicians.  Today, was an important milestone because the markets not only soared, they ended above a level that previously would have been resistance (there was a monster trade by someone at 3:55 which threw just enough gas on the fire to hold above these key levels - almost like someone was trying influence the market).

So, now this is where it gets dangerous, things are playing out in days that used to take weeks or months or years.  However, since we've cleared this initial hurdle, stocks have nothing to hold them back.  Since, they fell so far, so fast, the bounce back might be ridiculous.

To continue with my analogy from this morning, if the market is a ball dropped from the Empire State Building which bounced sharply higher off the wing of an airplane now it might get caught in a NYC updraft and act like a paper airplane soaring higher. 

The risk is that people won't see this for what it is - a vicious bear market rally - and instead will mistake it for the all clear to jump back in.  Remember, gravity will eventually win out and this is a dedicated traders market.  This is not a healthy market at all, despite what you'll hear on the news. 

My belief is that this bounce is going to be the one that really wipes out a lot of investors.

Stats of the day:
2007-2017 - $10 Trillion in new debt
2017 - $1.5 Trillion tax cut
2019 - $1 Trillion deficit
2020 - $6 Trillion bailout

This is how countries go bankrupt.

The bailout:
Unfortunately, this bailout is going to happen. I'll keep shouting at anyone that will listen, that this is straight up theft, but it won't matter.  A former Goldman employee is going to direct some $500 billion to corporations and we the taxpayers get to pay an Administrator - shocker, that will be some combination of Wall Street banks - a $100 million fee to disperse the money. 

Oh, and we don't get to find out where it goes or what it was used for. 

This is banana republic-level corruption.  Somali warlords are looking at this and saying, "Why didn't we think of that?".

*If anyone has a contact at Tedra Cobb's campaign, send them my way at I would love to help her craft a message that will adequately explain why Americans in NY-21 get to send more and more of our tax dollars to support failed corporations while our families struggle in the North Country.

* Companies taking bailouts can still layoff workers. It just asks that they keep employees to the "extent possible". 

Overheard at Giantmegasuper Corp "Well, we could keep Jack and Jane on the third shift, but I really was hoping to boost the bonus pool for the C-level executives so I guess it's just not possible to keep them.  Whoopsie!"

* Companies have no restrictions on stock buybacks, so everything they did to enrich themselves and make their companies vulnerable to this downturn??? Yeah, just keep doing that. #SMH

Industries that have the strongest lobbyists are about to rob the American people while wearing an N95 mask.  This crisis is the cover they are using to steal from your children and grandchildren.  We can't stop it but we can remind them that their jobs are on the line in November ( and

The idea of "Open for Easter" keeps getting pushed by the White House.  I can't state this any clearer:

The best estimate I've seen is that if we continue what we are doing right now - 1 million Americans are going to die from Covid19.  Opening things back up on Easter probably triples that number, are you okay with 3 million citizens dying so that you could go to Easter Brunch at the Cracker Barrel?

When you start seeing these arguments made that we have to do this for the sake of the economy, maybe take note of the fact that there are virtually no economists or actual healthcare experts suggesting this approach.

Gallows humor of the day:
Airlines: $50 to bring your bag
Airlines: $14 for a sandwich
Airlines: Oh, you want your legs to "fit"? $75 each way.
Airlines: Want to pick a seat? $50.
Also Airlines: Ah, remember all those good times. Hey, can you just mail your income taxes directly to us at United/American/Delta?  Thanks. That's be $5 for clicking "open" on this message.


That was a long 6 months last week

The amount of news flow crossing the wires every hour is roughly a week's worth of information and it's numbing trying to stay caught up to date.

This morning the financial media have given up trying to explain the why and are just reporting the what - "Markets are limit up because......well, why not?" is the basic theme.  I have a couple of theories that I'll offer up:

1) The technicals held above that 2180 level for the S&P 500 yesterday (despite the sharp sell-off) and that will embolden a lot of dip buyers. The best analogy I have, is if you throw a ball off the Empire State Building and it hits a passing plane underneath you, the fall will suddenly be reversed and the ball might bounce significantly.......until gravity kicks it and it will at some point.

2) I can't believe politics is dominating this conversation but any slush fund can't be controlled by the White House/the Treasury, etc.  It's just too much money and it's too important to just gift that money to people who will undoubtedly do inappropriate things with it, so I commend those opposing the slush fund (Congresswoman Stefanik - any comment???).  However, the truth is that they feel the need to get any deal done so maybe they relent and the slush fund is $150-200 billion --- sorry, I just threw up a little in my mouth --- and a stimulus package is passed.  Stocks might just jump 10% that day.

It was very obvious on Sunday that the messaging coming out of some corners of the media and from talking heads was this concept that "America needs to get back to work. Yes, some people are going to die but people die every day and I'm not giving up my place in Aspen and the Hampton's so your grandmother is around at Christmas" (okay, I took a little poetic license, but that was the message).

However, I didn't think we'd hear that tone for another month - I want to be clear I'm not advocating or opposing this message but this is the rationale:

"So, maybe 1-3 million people die but what's that worth? At a million dollars a life it's $1.0 to $3.0 trillion.  We are going to spend 2-3 times that bailing out the economy if we don't go back to work."

Imagine being a healthcare worker on the front lines and hearing that messaging.  I suspect that is why Dr. Fauci was absent yesterday and replaced at the news conference by the brilliant medical mind of Attorney General Barr.

Side bar: is it too late to nominate Dr. Fauci for President?

This is not a conversation that normally takes place in public.  Rather these are the sort of actuarial calculations happen a back room when a company decides to keep their product on the market despite the odds that it will kill 20-30 people per year because the revenue it drives will vastly exceed any potential lawsuits resulting from the deaths.  However, these are not normal times.

Random bits from the past 24 hours

* More and more people are starting to accept that this may be a recession.  However, I think they are discounting it's severity and length.  My initial thoughts are 50% worse than the Great Financial Crisis of 2008 and 3-4 quarters at a minimum. 

* The Fed has had more announcements and actions in a month than they did in the entirety of the Great Financial Crisis.

Bailout 2.0 - if you take anything from this post - copy this and send it around to all of your friends. This should make everyone, Republicans, Democrats, and Independents sick to your stomach:

* $50 billion for the airlines (who spent $45 billion propping up their stock in the past 5 years).

* $150 billion for the Trump/Mnuchin slush fund.

* The hotel industry wants $150 billion.

* The restaurant industry wants $145 billion.

* The manufacturer's lobby wants $1.4 Trillion.

* Shopping malls want $1 Trillion.

* The greatest beggars to ever live - Jeff Bezos and Elon "I once told the truth in 1994" Musk - want $5 billion for their space toys (this alone should make anyone with a spine vote "no").

I can't believe, this is still going, but..........

* Adidas/Reebok want provisions to make sports equipment tax deductible.

* The beer industry wants $5 billion

* The candy industry wants $500 million.

* Importers want fines for dumping waived.

In order to get a few small checks sent to you, Congress is giving away our future.  Call/email your Representatives and tell them your thoughts on this form of corporate socialism ( and to find yours).


Monday, March 23, 2020

Cue the helicopters...

The Fed has effectively announced QE 4EVER - expansion of it's plans and a willingness to buy unlimited Treasuries and mortgage securities.

I won't sugar coat this.  A former Goldman bailout artist (Mnuchin) couldn't get his "slush fund" - he wanted effective control of $425 billion to control at his discretion - in the Congressional bill, so instead he put a call into the "independent" Federal Reserve.

This is the day capitalism died in the US.

As discussed last night, if they get what they want Wall Street is going to buy this market like Beanie Babies in 1998. We bounced EXACTLY off that 2180 number on the S&P and ran to 2300 as the charts predicted. The technicians could easily push it up another meaningful 5-10-15% from here (especially, if Congress folds today).

So why, people are dying around the US at least the pajama traders in Greenwich, The Hamptons and Clayton will be rolling in they piles of cash.

A final thought - the markets have been conditioned to think "Fed action = buy STONKS!" but the problem isn't liquidity. It's demand.  No one is buying anything, conducting any business and no amount of Fed talk can fix that.

Good times.

Oh and we're only 1 week into an 8-12 week event. Awesome.


Sunday, March 22, 2020

Thankfully the markets are not "no limit" poker tables

Quick Sunday night update. Futures opened at 6pm tonight and fell 5% by 6:04pm which triggers the limit circuit breakers and stops trading over night.

Is this Lehman/TARP Failure weekend 2.0?  It's hard to tell what the failure of the Congressional vote means for the markets.  The failed bailout vote in 2008 did lead to sharply lower equity prices but the wild swings were amplified when TARP was eventually passed. 

My principal concern is that lobbyists are driving this bill (again) and they are holding the threat of a market collapse over the heads of legislators.

A lobbyist of Adidas (the German shoe/sports equipment company) indicated he was asking for $3.5 billion tax break as part of the COVID19 bailout bill.  

That is one little example of the nonsense that will be rolled into this bill.  Every wish list item that corporations have wanted for the past 10 years will get rolled into a bill and you'll get the bill on April 15th for the next 40 years.

Yes, stocks are going to head lower if this bill is not passed, but I would argue that they may very well go lower anyway when people watch the US economy grind to a complete halt in the next 2 weeks.

To that point, we are getting some early estimates on GDP for Q2 2020.  I would caution you to take this estimate from Goldman Sachs with a grain of salt because in January Goldman said the US economy was "Recession-Proof", but they are now predicting a 24% decline in US GDP. Not 0.24%, not 2.4%....... 24%!

They are also predicting a historic bounce back in the third quarter and fourth quarters, but that implies that the impact is very short-lived (a prediction that is still up in the air).

Magically, when the markets opened and fell 5% they landed EXACTLY on the line that is drawn as support - 2175-2180 for the S&P 500. It's very possible that stocks bounce off that line (particularly if Congress passes a plan to give your tax dollars to various S&P 500 companies). However, every chance for a rally in this market has been crushed and the potential for a week of ugly headlines in the battle of COVID19 is very real.

These are not predictions but the next stops on the way down are 2100 for the S&P 500 and then 1800.  If it breaks 1800, well, let's just say the stock market is going to be the last thing we have to worry about if that happens. 

On the other side of the coin, the market and every dip buyer, sees the potential for a face ripping 20-30% rally in days with pauses at 2300,  2600 and 2800.  So, net/net that's a potential 1000 point or 30-50% swing up/down in the markets in coming weeks.  These are not markets for normal investors.

* The good news: I've been pleasantly surprised by the reaction of people in our area and around New York. I predicted more people would start gathering in violation of social distancing rules, but so far that's not been the case.  Ultimately, this is going to save the lives of fellow New Yorkers.

* The Bad: Despite the cute youtube videos of Italians singing off their balconies, another 800 Italians lost their battle with COVID19 on Saturday.  Right now New York City is losing roughly 1 person per hour, that might soar to 20/hour or 500+ per day in a week.  The strain this will put on our healthcare system is overwhelming.

* and the Ugly: There were two public policy drivers behind the exponential growth in deaths from the 1918 flu -
1) misinformation from the government and
2) widely varying approaches to containment across the US.

I won't address #1 but I think everyone can at least admit that our government has not had its finest hour over the past 2 months.

The response across the US has not been consistent and as a result we are like to see the virus emerge in various hot spots on a rolling basis for months.  This is not currently built into anyone's expectations.

If we get a Congressional package tomorrow I'll try take a look at the details.

Friday, March 20, 2020

And just like that, it's over...

We tend to the wounded. Count our dead."

- from Yorktown, Hamilton the Musical

Thanks again for all of the shares - I suppose I should breakdown and get a Fakebook account to enhance my reach but you are all doing a great job of helping me reach as many people as possible.

Quote of the day - 

"If your entire economy collapses because you need to manage a pandemic for a few weeks, maybe the problem wasn't the virus".

Obviously, I'm being a little dramatic for effect but screens were green all over yesterday and we are rallying again this morning so....

Markets - Right now everyone is still operating with the mindset that this will be just like every other correction.  You pick the bottom and will be rewarded handsomely. 

We were poised on Thursday to bounce of a technical point on the charts and we did nicely (though they sold the market pretty hard at the end of the day). Again, if this gets going to the upside, it has the potential to be an epic 20-30% rally in just days, so I understand the appeal of wanting to pick the bottom but this a world for ultra-high speed algorithmic traders and the few humans with no life outside of staring at their screens for 23 hours a day.  The average investor should stay miles from this sort of market.

One final note - this crisis will not pass while the credit markets continue to implode.  I try to keep these discussions high level so I won't get too far into the weeds, but the investment grade and high yield debt markets continue to implode which will draw all of the liquidity from the Fed leaving nothing to support stocks. 

On the bailouts - let's see so far I've heard that all of these industries need their bailout...

* restaurants
* hotels
* casinos
* airlines
* Boeing
* the candy industry (I'm not kidding - see this - the Candy lobbyists want their money too!)
* cruise lines
* oil companies,
* etc, etc. 

As one lobbyist put it yesterday "We are at the spaghetti on the wall point of the crisis.  Let's see what sticks."  Reminder, these politicians are spending YOUR money (well, actually, they are taking out 30 year mortgages in your name because our Fed government has no money to spend right now). 

Remind them of that with a call or email or tweet to your Congressional leaders - locally that is @RepStefanik @SenSchumer or @SenGillibrand.  Send them my way if you'd like and I'll have a frank conversation with them.

I'll reiterate my opinion - the best thing in the long-run for consumers and employees is to let these over-leveraged, mismanaged companies file for bankruptcy reorganization.  While in reorganization, the companies will continue to operate and their financial condition will eventually improve leading to better wages and lower prices for consumes.  The only people benefiting from a bailout are the management teams and their investors who enabled them.

COVID19 update:

I do not have any unique insight beyond what everyone else is reporting.  California going into a state of "shelter in place" means that those measures are coming sooner than later to NY in my opinion.  As one doctor in NYC put it "We have no idea what's coming but I'm worried that by next week NYC becomes our Wuhan or Lombardy." That should scare us all.

One reason why is shown below:

While this isn't a scientific study, only showing a 7% decline in foot traffic is troubling (though to be fair this was through 3/13 and I think by 3/20 the numbers will look much different).  Especially for a virus with a 14 day incubation period. 

* Virus Fatigue - this article highlights one of my greatest concerns that I expressed earlier this week.  After another week or two of isolation people may start breaking containment and then we will see a resurgence of cases.  This creates this never-ending loop of outbreak/containment and society will start to fracture.

* China - This is major concern of mine that I keep hearing from people in the know - China is fuming right now.  Remember that amazing trade deal? Yeah, neither do they.  This virus will eventually fade into the background but the Chinese remember people who wronged them 1000 years ago and they will remember the way the rest of the world responded to this crisis.  One of the brightest minds I know is warning that we are running the risk of prompting the first cyber World War.  I think the odds are incredibly low, but in his opinion antagonizing the Chinese every day on national TV moves us one step closer to a US vs China/Russia/Iran/N.Korea cyber war.  If you think self-isolation is bad, imagine it without electricity, internet access or cell service. 

Okay, that's enough doom and gloom to hold you over until the weekend!

Stay safe and stay home!


Wednesday, March 18, 2020

If I had a trillion dollars....

I may have shared this image before but it's worth repeating.

This is $10,000 of $100 bills.


This is $1 million in $100 bills.
$1,000,000 (one million dollars)

This is $100 million.

$100,000,000 (one hundred million dollars)

Okay, here we go $1 billion.

$1,000,000,000 (one billion dollars)

However, when you start hearing people on TV talk about a trillion dollars here or there but they don't have a way to offer free COVID19 tests remember this image.  $1 Trillion....

$1,000,000,000,000 (one trillion dollars)
The point is that these are astronomical sums of money that we are talking about.

The markets continued to swing wildly as we have a daily tug of war between collapsing fundamentals and hourly stimulus proposals. There are some real signs of market stress that I won't go into too deeply but it is possible one of the biggest hedge funds in the world run by one of the world's richest men might be blowing up (couldn't happen to a nicer guy - he's a grade A jerk).

The challenge for the US economy is that we spend borrowed money to buy imported products.  While our reaction to the market declines have been historic, the irony is that thus far our markets have held up when compared to overseas markets which are already down 40-50%.  Ultimately, our reliance on the leveraged consumer probably means the impact will be greater here than overseas.  Something to keep in mind.

The list of crazy ideas floated today included:

1) The Federal Reserve buying up corporate debt (this would be covert bailout for hedge funds).  If you love your country, you should oppose this idea. 

2) Bailing out the airlines and Boeing continues to gain steam - Together Warren Buffett and another hedge fund own about 25% of the airlines.  The idea that we are contemplating bailing out one of the wealthiest people in the world (AGAIN - remember all of his banks we saved in 2008) is appalling.  I would be the world's greatest investor if I got bailed out every 10 years.

3) A 30 day national lock down.  Right now this is just a rumor, but I think this is so stupid some people might push it hard.  The idea is we close everything - the market, every business, literally everything for 30 days and the virus magically goes away.  In China you can pull this off, but in the US where 60% of one particular political party representing probably 80 million citizens think this is being blown out of proportion, you are going to cause mass chaos.  If you live in NY/DC/LA this might seem logical but they have no idea the blow back they will get if they try this in Tuscaloosa.

Who knows what tomorrow will bring? The markets initially soared on then news of $800 bil of stimulus from the ECB (up 4%) but two hours later they are sliding, now down 2% and falling.  We are getting very close to some important points of technical resistance that could provide great bounce points but frankly no one knows because if funds start blowing up all of the normal rules go out the door.


Thanks again - almost 500 people came to check out my ramblings today.  Feel free to share or shoot me any questions at  You can also follow me on twitter @brianlantier for biting sarcasm and dark humor.

Never Waste A Good Crisis

Politicians have never met a crisis that they couldn't parlay into more money and power for their friends. The 2020 recession will not be any different.

Since we had about 18 months of news in 24 hours, I'm going to break it down into two posts - the first covering the pandemic news and the response, while the second will address what's left of our markets.

1) This article is worth reading at - Scientists warn we may have to live with social distancing for a year or more.  Since, mid-February this has been my position on the virus.  We have to chose to shutdown society and attempt to avoid everyone for 12-18 months or we have to accept a very high number of deaths in some of the most vulnerable populations. 

"The idea that you can close schools or restaurants for two weeks and you get back to normal - that's not what's going to happen." The concept that the virus will re-emerge without strict movement restrictions is a huge risk in a country like the US where some states are being very aggressive, while others are doing virtually nothing. 

2) This is my proposal - if anyone has a contact at the CDC or the White House feel free to pass it along. 

Test EVERYONE.  Yes, everyone.  It's expensive and it'll be a PITA but hear me out.  We use every available public building to collect samples and rapid test (none of this 5-8 days for results BS). When you test positive, you truly self-isolate.  Everyone else returns to their jobs/school/traveling and life resumes a somewhat normal existence.  The economy would bounce back, schools could open, and we'd have a chance at avoiding a recession without adding another 10% to our crushing Federal debt totals.

On a very small scale look at the success an Italian town had with this approach - "Test all 3,300 in town, isolate the 3 percent who tested positive. Infection rate 10 days later down to .3 percent."

 Obviously, testing 330 million people is different than testing 3,300 but the alternative is failing business, skyrocketing unemployment, bailouts galore, and another 8 weeks stuck inside with your family😂😂😂.

3) I just wanted to share this story of someone's experience with COVID19 testing in NY. 

"I just got swabbed for COVID-19 in NY, and the experience leaves me feeling so much more paranoid about America’s ability to get a grip on this crisis. They still won’t test you unless you’ve been in contact with a confirmed case, which is a nonsensical standard in the context of community spread. But they don’t even ask you for a name, probably because of medical privacy laws. But as a result it’s a meaningless question. Goes almost without saying there is zero effort to do contact tracing. Medical staff didn’t even encourage me to alert people I or my partner had been in contact with (that said, our family has been self-quarantined going on 9 days, even before symptoms started). I walked to the urgent care facility to minimize contact with anyone. I was bracing myself for a long line, so when I arrived and discovered the place to be essentially empty I was a little surprised. Is that because there was a separate entrance for suspected COVID-19 cases? Nope, they walked me through the front door and into an exam room. No instructions to wash my hands (maybe bc I was wearing gloves and a mask). No paper covering the chair I sat in. The total lack of precautions was not just a risk to the people who would come after me in that room, but to myself and my family because presumably the room would have some lingering virus from someone else. This last part was not unexpected, but it remains crazy that results will take 5-8 days while Korea is providing them in a matter of hours. I somehow forgot the most troubling detail. If I hadn’t had insurance, I would’ve had to pay $125 to the urgent care facility and $1,000 to the diagnostic company out of pocket, on the spot, for testing. This is so insanely regressive. We need free, accessible testing now." - via @claydumas on twitter.

This is in NY which has been at the cutting edge for diagnosing cases for the past 2 weeks and as you can tell we are doing a terrible job.  Imagine what the systems are like in other parts of the country.

Again, thanks for tuning in.  Share the link if you find it valuable and follow me on twitter @brianlantier for snarky commentary all day long.