Coronavirus, uncertainty, and the markets

Vanguard has been talking about uncertainty for some time now. In fact, it was the theme of our economic and market outlook for 2020, where we put forth our view that perhaps the markets have become too optimistic about the prospects for growth in China, the United States, and elsewhere.

And now comes COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus. News over the weekend suggested a noteworthy spread of the disease beyond China, where it originated, to South Korea, Italy, Iran, and other countries.

We’re saddened by the loss and suffering that so many people have already endured. We pray for the recovery of those afflicted and offer condolences to the families of victims.

We also understand investors’ concerns about the potential effects of the coronavirus outbreak on China’s and the global economy. Our Investment Strategy Group estimates that, in what it sees as its most likely of three scenarios, the virus will take about 0.5 percentage point of growth from China’s economy this year. They offer the caveat that their analysis, completed near the end of the week of February 17, assumes the virus would primarily remain contained in mainland China.

Vanguard has a stellar global team of economists. But they’re not epidemiologists. Predicting the course of a disease as novel as the coronavirus is sure to challenge even the most accomplished medical scientists.

That said, this is what we do know, from an economic and markets standpoint:

  • The coronavirus has introduced uncertainty into the global economy to a degree greater than we had envisioned when we put together our economic and market outlook for 2020.
  • Investors frequently respond cautiously to heightened uncertainty, selling out of riskier assets in favor of safe havens.
  • Markets have shown over their history that volatility is more the rule than the exception, and that events that prompt sell-offs tend to recede into the background over the longer term.

With this knowledge, we encourage investors, as we have for ages, to hold a diversified portfolio of assets, to remain disciplined by avoiding impulsive decisions based on fear and uncertainty, and to stay focused on their long-term goals and their plan for achieving them.


All investing is subject to risk, including the possible loss of the money you invest.

Diversification does not ensure a profit or protect against a loss.

Please remember that all investments involve some risk. Be aware that fluctuations in the financial markets and other factors may cause declines in the value of your account. There is no guarantee that any particular asset allocation or mix of funds will meet your investment objectives or provide you with a given level of income.

Source Vanguard Blog