Tuesday, 17 March 2020

Roxy, Thank You and ICU

That "Roxy" Roxborough is an intelligent man is clear from his pinned Tweet which states:

Four words to better health: Eat Less, Exercise More.....Four words to better sports gambling: Bet Prices not Teams.
That Roxy is a generous man with impeccable taste in betting related blogs became clear at the weekend when a generous donation to my retirement fund was made with the note:
Good stuff you write. Maybe this will get you a good bottle of Scotch. Roxy.
Donation and comment both very gratefully received and appreciated.

On the topic of Roxy's pinned tweet, to be honest I seem to do better with the last four words than the first four, but having arrived in California to the news that bars are closed, and restaurants only allowed to serve drive-thru, take-out or delivery, and with no sport (and no 'Final Four') to bet on, it appears to be a golden opportunity to focus on those first four words.

For those of you unfamiliar with Roxy, he has his own Wikipedia page while one 2018 article described him as:
A syndicated columnist, author and teacher, Roxborough is best known throughout the bookmaking world as the founder and owner of Las Vegas Sports Consultants, which generates betting odds for just about anything that moves.
If you follow 'Las Vegas legend' Roxy on Twitter, you'll find other gems, such as this one from January last year:
"Anyone can win betting small," Zeljko Ranogajec told me over lunch in Sydney in the early 1990's before he became the world's largest better. And so it is. Winning is just the first step. The next step, much harder, requires imagination to scale up your bets and stay in the game.
I would have linked to Zeljko's Twitter account, except apparently he has been a naughty boy, and has violated Twitter's Rules, so I link to his Wikipedia page lest anyone not know who he is. One might be excused for being unaware that Twitter actually has any rules given some of the tweets which are allowed with no concerns, but there you are. Scaling up is a skill that Zeljko seems to have mastered!

My wife's hometown here is a beach community with a healthy (or unhealthy, depending on your perspective) number of bars, the aforementioned closure of which will probably see some of them go out of business. Sad enough in itself, but there are also the bar staff who lose their jobs, the cleaners and maintenance staff who lose theirs, the beer distributors who service the area need fewer staff, fewer trucks, and so it goes on.

Roxy's Las Vegas, (he doesn't own the whole city, just calls it home at least some of the year), is also seeing some dramatic changes, with MGM shuttering their Bellagio, MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay, The Mirage, Luxor, New York-New York, Excalibur, and Park MGM casinos / hotels. The leisure business will be hit hard.

While not everywhere has yet adopted such extreme measures, several have, and many more will in the coming weeks. What that all adds up to is at best a recession, and quite possibly a depression. 

As generous as Roxy's donation was, I have to say that it didn't quite cover the hit taken by the collapse of stock prices over the last couple of weeks. What a difference a month makes. I returned from South Africa to a spreadsheet that peaked on February 19th and serious thoughts of a March 2021 retirement, yes less than a month later several hundred thousand worse off, at least on paper and looking like I'll be working for a while longer. 

After conducting my 'keep things in perspective exercise', I'm now back to where I was in January 2019.

As the Irrelevant Investor put it (from a US perspective):
The declines over the last few weeks in the stock market have been fast and unrelenting. But being concerned about your portfolio at this stage of the game is a luxury.
Roughly half of the country doesn’t own stock. These people are much more anxious about their job security than the decline in the Dow.
For millions of Americans, the next few months are going to be trying times. Wages will be cut and jobs will be lost.
As sorry for myself as I might feel, which actually isn't that sorry since it's been a good run for many years, there are many more people who will be far more impacted by COVID-19 and the stock plunge than me.

Staying positive, and the Irrelevant Investor (again) published a table showing average returns after various numbers of years after buying stocks after falls of certain percentages.
The 3, 10 and 20 year percentages are annualised, and I am certainly not recommending investing in stocks at the moment but at some point, greed will be on a par with fear and prices will bottom out. 

Having sounded a positive note, here's a less positive one.

Unfortunately this virus causing this economic shutdown is going to run for a lot longer than I'm seeing mentioned. "July, August" was mentioned but it'll likely be longer than that. 
In the US, the population is 327 million, give or take a few. Spanish Flu infected 27% of the world population, and while COVID-19 appears to be more contagious, that percentage would equate to 88 million. About 17% of cases require ICU treatment which is 15 million people, and the USA has just under 15,000 ICU beds. 

In the UK, applying the same numbers (and yes they are best guesses), 18 million people would be infected, with 3 million requiring ICU treatment. The UK has about 4,000 ICU beds. 

Even assuming that every ICU bed is available (and most are not), and without accounting for the average treatment time or the fact that there may not be enough healthcare staff and personal protection equipment available, the importance of flattening the curve, of which we are all now familiar, is made starkly clear. It is highly unlikely that many / most cases requiring intensive care will get that level of care. 

We've probably all seen pictures from Italy of patients being treated in corridors when the health system was overwhelmed and the mortality rate there, based on the latest and always changing numbers, is about 7.7%. 

You can extrapolate the numbers for the USA and the UK if you want, but they are rather depressing. It puts those stock losses in perspective.

Wash your hands often and stay home if you can and if you don't understand the importance of social distancing, check out these simulators.

Stay safe. 

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