Coronavirus: it’s time to think positive

PUBLISHED: 16:30 03 April 2020 | UPDATED: 16:30 03 April 2020

The transformation from the capital’'s Excel Centre to one of the world'’s largest hospital was completed in less than a fortnight. Picture: Getty Images

The transformation from the capital’'s Excel Centre to one of the world'’s largest hospital was completed in less than a fortnight. Picture: Getty Images


One of the world’s largest hospitals – built in just a fortnight – is one reason to be optimistic, says financial expert Peter Sharkey.

My wife and I have always been avid watchers of the BBC’s 10 o’clock news. Over the years, it’s become a pivotal, relaxing, don-the-dressing-gown point in the day, though still capable of generating vociferous responses (from me) whenever a feature is ridiculously subjective or plain stupid.

Oh for a return of those days, when BBC reporters stood in front of the White House and blamed the US President for everything that was wrong in the world, or when presenters introduced features on how Alsatian dogs are better drivers than middle-aged men. I actually miss this nonsense.

More recently the news as reported by all media can only be described as depressing fare. No wonder there’s been a significant rise in the phenomenon known as ‘stress drinking’.

“Alcohol is so culturally embedded that people use it to deal with anxiety,” claimed one expert this week. They always have, but I understand that the nation’s unofficial cocktail hour has been moved forward to 5pm, a response, perhaps, to the government’s decision to label off-licences as ‘essential’ retail outlets.

Nevertheless, there was one piece of particularly uplifting news which made the 10 o’clock bulletin this week: the successful completion of London’s Nightingale Hospital, capable of accommodating 4,000 patients. Incredibly, the transformation from the capital’s Excel Centre to the world’s largest hospital was completed in less than a fortnight. This rare piece of good news provided viewers with a fine example of Britain’s limitless capabilities; not bad for a country supposedly incapable of standing on its own two feet, although I sincerely hope we have no use for the Nightingale’s impressive facilities.

A recent study, undertaken by the Oxford Said Business School, confirmed that individuals pay more attention to good news than to bad. Conversely, we’re much less inclined to take notice of a steady flow of bad news. This, says the study, explains why savers and investors check the value of their accounts or portfolios much less frequently when stock markets are nose-diving.

The Oxford study’s findings are replicated in everyday life: we tend to ignore potentially onerous tasks, from weeding the garden to washing the car, yet pre-Covid-19, we jumped at the opportunity to head down to the pub or meet friends for dinner.

With normal life temporarily suspended, however, these are incredibly worrying times for everyone: the coronavirus is news it’s impossible to ignore. But what happens once the rate at which people contract the virus begins to fall markedly – as it hopefully soon will? Can we resume our lives, go back to work, enjoy a pint at the local? It seems very unlikely; instead, we must expect some restrictions to remain in place for several months, possibly until the end of the year or beyond.

Yet we can be confident that eventually, the virus will be contained; sick people will get better and life will return to normality. Moreover, financial markets will also bounce back because they always do. Over the past century, they’ve recovered from two World Wars, the Great Depression, several oil crises, severe crashes of 1974 and 1987, the dotcom collapse and, most recently, from the global financial crisis of 2008.

Reasons, then, to be cheerful – or at least optimistic?

Writing in Investors Chronicle, economist Chris Dillow pointed out that Bank of England data on share prices goes back to 1709. “During this time,” he noted, “there have been 23 months when share prices have fallen by 10 percent or more…But there have also been 25 months in this time when prices have risen by 10 percent or more.”

In other words, he concludes, share price increases are just as likely as crashes, another cause for optimism, especially for folks who have reluctantly checked the value of their pension pots recently.

Was there a hint of similarly cautious optimism in this week’s news, a hint that we may not be too far away from reaching the point at which scientists and healthcare professionals start getting on top of things and slowing the spread of coronavirus?

Let’s hope so, because while the last couple of weeks haven’t lost their extended public holiday feel, everyone wants a return to normal life as soon as possible. And when that starts to happen, it’ll worth bearing Mr Dillow’s words in mind.

TAM Asset Management Ltd offer investors the opportunity to invest their savings in Investment ISA portfolios comprising a variety of different funds pursuing long-term cautious, balanced or adventurous strategies. For further details, please visit the MoneyMapp website.
Please note: with investing, your capital is at risk.

For more financial advice, check out Peter Sharkey’s regular column, The Week In Numbers.

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