Wednesday, October 15, 2014

An undeniable but intangible cloud over the financial markets

The perceived slowdown in global growth and the consequent potential decline in financial activity is uppermost in investor's minds today.  On top of that major concern, ebola lurks just outside of the analyzable consciousness as a cloud that cannot be ignored at the moment.  The disease with no cure may be contained successfully in Western countries and become no more than a blip on screen in the coming weeks, or it may persist as a factor, particularly if the disease in Africa spirals out of control into a regional pandemic.  That does not appear to be a far fetched possibility.

Based on what President Obama has repeatedly been saying, while some nations like the U.S., France, Germany, and England are stepping up to the challenge in Africa, many others are doing so more cautiously or barely at all.  This is, one could think, partially due to the pervasive fear of ebola rightfully held be many aid and medical workers, and by the long track record in Africa of both foreign government and NGO financial contributions being misused by governments there.  When a country just says they need money, one could think "to spend on what" if they do not have enough doctors and nurses, medical workers of all types, in the country itself.  These countries need external help one could think, not more direct monetary contributions to inefficient and historically, at times, corrupt governments.  That's a biased way of thinking, but that is a blunt assessment of how many people and governments actually think.

That way of thinking must be overcome, and if in fact it must just be accepted that even if all money contributed does not get to an appropriate project or activity,  that toll is worth the cost of getting more money to the right place to halt the exponential growth of this disease.  To the extent this disease continues to expand in west Africa, it will inevitably expand, however modestly, in this globalized world economy.

Investors can't put this into a model but they are susceptible to concerns about ebola and both facts and rumors about its spread.  We can't underestimate this intangible at the moment.  After all, investors are actually human.    

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