by Scott Ronalds

Unprecedented is the best word I know to describe what’s going on in the world right now. Things are stressful, abnormal and uncertain. But you already know that.

You also know, hopefully, that we’re here for you and you can reach us in a number of ways if you have questions or concerns about your investments (1-888-888-3147;; or book a call). We’ve been writing frequently to keep you up to date on our thinking, portfolio positioning, and advice. We hope you’re finding it helpful.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what more we can say these days to provide some comfort. It’s a tough task. We don’t want to overwhelm you, as we’re all being bombarded with news and announcements. And most of you have been doing exactly what you should be doing with your portfolio - sitting tight.

But despite the predicament we’re all in, there are some people, corporations and organizations that are doing great things. We could all use a good story. The purpose of this post is to highlight a few.

Corporations and nonprofits are stepping up

In previous global challenges (e.g. World War II), corporations have played an important role by repositioning manufacturing facilities to produce vital goods. We’re seeing some of this today.

  • Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy (LVMH), the French luxury goods conglomerate, is repositioning its cosmetics production facilities to make disinfecting hand gel that it will distribute free to public health officials in Paris. Many small distilleries across Canada have also switched to producing sanitizers.  
  • General Motors is making machines to manufacture surgical masks at one of its Chinese factories, as is Foxconn, the firm that manufacturers iPhones.

Telecom companies are also eliminating any overages on data usage so those self-quarantining and working from home can use all the data they need.

And on the healthcare front, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, in partnership with others, is making available over $100 million to biotech firms to accelerate potential treatments and fast track the development of antiviral drugs to treat COVID-19. Clinical trials for a vaccine have also begun in record speed in Seattle (although a vaccine is likely several months away).

The power of music

Music’s unique power to bring people together, even when in isolation, has been put on full display.

  • A highlight has been the quarantined Italian who gave his neighbours a free concert from his balcony, playing a striking solo of John Lennon’s Imagine on his trumpet. Italians across the country have been singing from their balconies in a sign of solidarity. 
  • Coldplay’s Chris Martin did an impromptu concert on Instagram. John Legend followed his lead, and other artists are eager to join the ‘music therapy’ cause. NPR Music has compiled a list of free virtual concerts from around the world. 
  • And then there’s the clever take on the Barenaked Ladies’ hit If I Had a Million Dollars, which was put together to get people to laugh, reflect on those in need, and provide some crucial information on the virus.

Mother Earth is getting a rest

Some interesting things are happening with the slowdown in industrial production.

  • Air quality has improved significantly in China and Europe. 
  • The Venice canal is crystal clear, bringing back the “lagoon waters of ancient times” without cruise ships polluting the region. 
  • The toxic clouds that have been a mainstay over many Asian cities have largely disappeared.

While manufacturing will eventually ramp up to pre-virus levels and the pollution is sure to return with it, it’s encouraging to see what can happen when harmful emissions are reduced.

Lastly, a 103-year old woman in Wuhan has made a full recovery from the virus according to British newspapers. There are also signs that life is slowly returning to normal for many people in China. It may be flickering right now, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Be responsible, stay safe, and don’t forget about the good out there. We’re all in this together.