No basketball, no hockey, no baseball. And to top it off, no money — or at least, a lot less of it after Thursday for pretty anyone who has investments.
We thought the market carnage of Monday was bad, when stock prices took their biggest dive since the crash of October 1987. Thursday was worse: the Canadian dollar hit a four-year low, the Toronto Stock Exchange fell 12 per cent — its worst day since 1940 — and the price of oil dropped another six per cent.
Billions of dollars have evaporated in the blink of an eye — $830 billion in market value since the TSX peaked on Feb. 20 — zapping retirement savings and children’s education funds.
In times of crisis and financial turmoil, politicians are supposed to at least try to make things better. Around the world, we see many a leader — ours in Canada included — working around the clock to hash out plans, dedicate resources, communicate aggressively.
While we can haggle about whether they’re overreacting or too complacent, or about whether their initiatives miss the mark, we probably believe they have the public’s best interest at heart.
But moves by U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday night, and by the Russian and Saudi oil producers just days earlier, were conceived with so little regard for the effects on the rest of the world — or even their own populations — as to turn the already-dire economic effects of COVID-19 into a dangerous quagmire.
The fallout will touch all of us, and may well outlast the coronavirus itself.
First, Russia refused to go along with OPEC and cut its oil production in response to coronavirus, which had already been relentlessly driving prices down for weeks. Then, not to be outdone, Saudi Arabia threatened to increase production and flood the market.
That power struggle pushed the world’s already-limping economy closer to chaos, as it drove the TSX and oil prices to worrisome depths.
But that was so Monday.
Trump’s comments on Wednesday night were the last straw. In announcing a travel ban with Europe, he set off a new round of global panic. When his officials had to spend Thursday walking back some of his comments and interpreting others, it only added confusion to the mix.
In Canada, the resulting market free fall has left our politicians trying to mitigate damage they had little power to prevent, even as they scramble to deal with a pandemic.
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Ottawa made a start this week, announcing it would help troubled companies borrow money to weather the rough patch. More help will come in the federal budget at the end of the month. The Bank of Canada also took the extraordinary measure of injecting extra cash into the financial system — something it hasn’t had to do since the financial crisis of a decade ago. And Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, whose province is feeling the pain most acutely, has indicated that his government is preparing a massive stimulus program, and will offer low-interest loans to businesses. “We are in free-fall right now because of the price war,” Kenney said.
Yes, we have cheap gasoline, but that’s cold comfort at this point. The incompetence and recklessness of self-interested foreign governments have shaken the confidence of a world that’s been destabilized by COVID-19. As the virus changes the way Canadians live, plunging markets have added another layer of worry to an already fearful situation. Canadian governments have a tough job ahead.