Is The Market Adjusting to Social Distancing?

Written by Jennifer Clark
Posted March 18, 2020

I’ve been discussing COVID-19 for about a month or so. I know that you’ve seen plenty of news about it in the past few weeks, especially this past week, and rightfully so. The U.S. is officially in a state of national emergency and states are trying to implement preventative measures to ensure that the virus doesn’t rapidly spread. 

Of course, it’s going to spread, but reducing how fast it spreads is a top priority. An already vulnerable health care system would not be able to handle an onslaught of COVID-19 patients in addition to people who just need ordinary medical attention. That is why the federal and state governments and health officials are emphasizing the importance of social distancing. 

Many states have been encouraging people to stay at home and avoid social gatherings of more than 50 — at least that’s what Maryland’s governor has suggested. I live and work in Baltimore, Maryland, and, yesterday, our governor mandated that restaurants, bars, and any place where people gather must be closed by 5 p.m. that night. I can say that Maryland is taking this virus very seriously. It has postponed major events to reduce the risk of the communal spread of COVID-19. 

In addition to that, government officials are encouraging people (who have the option) to work from their homes. Last week, my office decided that would be the best decision for the company. Even before the virus, we had the option to work from home for maybe one or two days a week, never for an entire week... or indefinitely. Many people I know are off until the end of March… for now. It could be longer. 

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That means a lot of people (if they are smart) are spending time at home, with limited interaction with other people to prevent spreading the virus. All this time at home is forcing people to find new ways to entertain themselves and get their work done. 

As usual, I'm using Slack's (NYSE: WORK) office messaging application to communicate with my coworkers, get work done, and interact as if we were in the office — like having conference calls and sharing documents through Slack’s platform. On Tuesday, March 17, Slack's stock jumped 18% while most of the market was having a hard time rebounding from record lows. 

On Sunday, the Federal Reserve cut interest rates to near zero to stop the economy from crashing. However, on Monday, U.S. stock indices fell aggressively. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 2,997.20 points, and the S&P 500 index lost about 12%. It’s been a tough few weeks for the stock market, and the government is trying its best to reassure Americans that everything will be OK. 

Other “at-home” stocks, like video streaming service Roku (NASDAQ: ROKU) and at-home fitness company Peloton Interactive (NASDAQ: PTON), increased on Tuesday. Streaming services will be something people rely on even more as they are stuck indoors. Heck, just today I considered subscribing to Disney+ so I can watch all the Marvel movies. People who don’t have the services will consider them when they run out of ways to entertain themselves.

Peloton experienced a bump in its shares thanks to guidelines suggesting gatherings be limited to 50… 20… or even 10 people, which means gyms are closed. For some people, the gym is an amazing way to stay grounded, and those dedicated folks will need to find a new way to get their gym time — that’s where Peloton comes in. We’ll most likely continue to see a shift towards these types of at-home stocks as people continue to isolate in their homes.

The weeks to come are going to be very, very interesting.

Until next time, 

Jennifer Clark 
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