Having largely ignored Covid-19 as it spread across China, global financial markets reacted strongly last week when the virus spread to Europe and the Middle East, stoking fears of a global pandemic. Since then, Covid-19 risks have been priced so aggressively across various asset classes that some fear a recession in the global economy may be a foregone conclusion.
In our conversations, business leaders are asking whether the market drawdown truly signals a recession, how bad a Covid-19 recession would be, what the scenarios are for growth and recovery, and whether there will be any lasting structural impact from the unfolding crisis.
In truth, projections and indices won’t answer these questions. Hardly reliable in the calmest of times, a GDP forecast is dubious when the virus trajectory is unknowable, as are the effectiveness of containment efforts, and consumers’ and firms’ reactions. There is no single number that credibly captures or foresees Covid-19’s economic impact.
Instead, we must take a careful look at market signals across asset classes, recession and recovery patterns, as well as the history of epidemics and shocks, to glean insights into the path ahead.