Time and the day’s headlines seem to blaze by at a faster clip than ever. Breaking stories burn bright and fast in today’s news cycle, only to be crushed by the collective weight of tomorrow’s boldface news, op-eds and tweets.
As I write my first column as editor-in-chief of Soundings Trade Only, 14 states are going to the polls for Super Tuesday, the biggest election day on the Democratic primary calendar. Surely this story should take top billing in an election year. However, the day falls just after the S&P 500 put up the worst numbers since the Great Recession of the late aughts.
Sharing today’s marquee with Super Tuesday — perhaps as a footnote, albeit a substantial one — is news from the Federal Reserve, which slashed interest rates with an emergency cut in an attempt to stymie the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak. “The coronavirus poses evolving risks to economic activity,” the Fed stated in a press release. “In light of these risks and in support of achieving its maximum employment and price stability goals, the Federal Open Market Committee decided today to lower the target range for the federal funds rate.”
The stock market rallied on the news, then took a nosedive later in the day as sell-offs continued. Talking heads talked. Speculators speculated. It’d be foolhardy to try to quantify the full impact that the coronavirus will ultimately have on world financial markets. However, I will provide one number: The Organization for Economic Cooperation estimated that the loss in global economic growth is equivalent to $400 billion.
Last week’s handful of cases in a new region is today’s major outbreak. The number of infected people will continue to climb, even as reports from China — if we are to trust them — indicate that the virus is under control at its source. There’s a lot of panic and uncertainty.
Will the coronavirus become a pandemic? How long will it dominate the news cycle? When will I unsubscribe from The New York Times’ daily coronavirus update and get back to obsessing over other topics?
There are signs that relief may come sooner rather than later. While indicators show that the virus could exact a heavy economic toll and continue to disrupt supply chains, there’s no quantifiable evidence that consumer spending — which makes up a whopping 70 percent of the American economy — has slowed, even as the travel and tourism industries see significant declines, and as quarantined ports keep goods from their final destinations.
Can we fall so hard, so fast? The Great Recession showed us that we can. But this outbreak comes at an exciting time in the marine industry. Consumer confidence soared to a six-month high at the end of February, and businesses big and small expected increased earnings and sales. Boatbuilders spoke of successful Miami shows, with full order books to keep production lines and suppliers busy.
It’s discretionary spending that can have the biggest impact on the boat business. If baby boomers — the largest segment of boat buyers during the past decade — see their retirement investments fall off a cliff, the coronavirus could have deep repercussions on every segment of the boat industry. And yet, for this issue, the Soundings Trade Only team spoke with leaders in the aftermarket segment about the ever-evolving ways they’ve adjusted to mega-consolidations, the rise of Amazon, the lingering trade war, labor shortages and cybercrime — and how they’ve always come away stronger.
I’m inspired by their stories of resilience and adaptation, and I’m thinking about coronavirus in that context. These marine businesses continue to look past obstacles and create dynamic solutions, seeming to be more prescient than ever on the global stage. They listen and respond to facts, not fear. Are they worried about a virus that could become an epidemic? Sure. Are they panicking? Not by a long shot.
The coronavirus might define us as an industry for years to come, but my bet is that it won’t. This business attracts a type of outlier: men and women who don’t shy away from struggle but, instead, face challenges head-on.
This article originally appeared in the April 2020 issue.