Monday, January 27, 2020

Is the stock market underestimating CoV2019?

Quite likely the stock market is underestimating the potential effect of CoV2019, the new coronavirus.

The human brain has limitations. One way we deal with that limitation is to treat a complicated cloud of probabilities as "binary".

In the case of CoV2019, the new coronavirus, binary means "absolutely nothing will happen" or "It is the end of the world as we know it."

There have been a wide range of studies investigating the heuristics (mental shortcuts) involving the calibration of low and high probability events. The overwhelming majority of the studies show that people round any probability of 20% or less into 0% probability and any probability over 80% to an absolute certainty of happening. This occurs whether you have a third grade education or a Ph.D in math.

Some of the difficulty in fleshing out the probability cloud involves imagining possible scenarios that are in the mid-range.

This blog post is an attempt to sketch out a mid-range scenario.

Where did all the Varget go?
Varget is a smokeless powder that has a cult-like following among sportsmen who reload for medium capacity cartridges like .308 Winchester, .223 Remington, .30-30 Winchester, 35 Whelen. Some reloaders even claim to put Varget on their cornflakes!

Varget's burn speed is well positioned for those cartridges and it is reputed to be relatively insensitive to temperatures swings. That is a big deal if you might be hunting antelope on the plains of Africa or Wyoming with 85 F temps or using the same load on Mule Deer at -15F.

Varget and several other smokeless propellants manufactured in the same factory suddenly disappeared from the shelves. So what is the story?

"We asked Hodgdon why these shortages occurred, and what we should expect in 2020 ??

Going back to 2017 and early 2018 Hodgdon, and the whole industry were experiencing unusually poor demand. They made substantial government sales in 2017-2018 to soak up what they believed was excess supply at that time.

By late 2018 and 2019 demand was picking up again, especially for big case magnum powders. Unfortunately during this same period Hodgdon began experiencing supply problems from Australia. These problems are logistical and not related to production. Australia and steamship lines have new regulations concerning how much powder can be shipped on one vessel, how much powder can be in a container terminal at one time, and the hazard classification of the powder itself. Shipments were delayed and a few were even returned to the producer during 2019 due to these issues.

Hodgdon believes they are now ahead of the problems and will have more success shipping the Australian powders in 2020. Some is on the way now, which should make it into distribution by April. Varget, H1000 and H4350 should be back in distribution by April, Retumbo should be available sometime April to June.
"  -January 12, 2020, Three Forks Ammo & Reloading LINK

So, one of the major players in the shortage of Varget is the fact that the port had new regulations that created a bottleneck and that dried up the supply of Varget in the US.

CONEX Containers
What if the contents of every CONEX container from China and regions known to have CoV2019 endemic must be quarantined and sanitized? Would that cause much of a hiccup in the US economy?

Even if high volume methods of sanitizing are accepted, there would still be bottlenecks.

Flood them with ozone? Where would you get enough ozone generators? How long would you have to flood the container to ensure every last crevice had been saturated?

Heat them to 140F for an hour? It takes time to ensure the interior reaches that temperature.

Wipe the parts down by hand? You are kidding, right? China supplies about 15% of our pharmeceuticals. Wipe down EVERY pill? You are kidding.

I know a little bit more about the auto industry than most other things, so it is easiest for me to illustrate the point using motor vehicles.

Our economy, like it or not, is very dependent on the global supply chain. You might not think 2% of an automobile's content being from China was a very big deal but it is. That anonymous black box on the back of a headlamp is a computer. It has far more capacity than it needs to blink in hazard mode or "Hey, I want to turn left." Economics demands that the little computer on the back of your headlamp be fully utilized so it is fully integrated into vehicle's computational biosphere.

Remove the right headlamp of some vehicles and the vehicle will not run! A vehicle is not salable if it is missing one, critical part.

And while the software coders could quickly write a patch or jumper around the missing module, who is going to step up and verify that the modified vehicle still meets all of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and Fuel Economy Standards, and Emissions Standards etc? Because the vehicle was changed from the units that were tested and validated for certification.

And Just-In-Time inventory systems guarantees there is not a warehouse somewhere, filled with parts to keep the line running.

If it the story escalates to the point where we need to quarantine and sanitize all parts entering the US from questionable sources for a period of four months then a -5% to -10% drop in the 2020 Gross Domestic Product is likely.


  1. Interesting line of thought. I wish some one would take the same approach to some of the liberals proposed policies. I wonder what kind of numbers would come up if the green new deal were enacted, including the mortality that would occur from inadaquate heat in cold areas and inadaquate cooling in hot areas especially to sensitive groups. Not to mention the loss of jobs from closed industries and the dificulty of commuting with out fuel autos. Etc..

  2. I reserve the right to be wrong but...what is so much worse from this new virus compared to plain ol Flu that happens every year about this time ? ? I keep hearing hype that seems to want to compare it to various scary viruses. Everyone gowned up. Yet....the actual rate of death doesn't seem excessive ( Unless it happens to me or mine) . Seems like more of a scare event than a real event. Or did I totally miss everything ( again) ? Coronavirus seems way over hyped.

    1. I have heard even Govt agencies sounding a lot like if you are an adult of reasonable health you will survive.

  3. 7000 influenza deaths in USA alone in past 4 months.
    Reports I've seen on deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus seem to be heavy on elderly people with serious preexisting conditions such as Type II diabetes, COPD,etc.
    Time will tell