Market Update: March 24, 2020


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The Markets

The coronavirus (COVID-19) continued to spread across the United States last week.

On Friday, March 13, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported there were 1,629 confirmed and presumptive cases and 41 deaths. Last Friday, March 20, the numbers had increased to 15,219 cases and 201 deaths.

Governments in several states – including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, New Jersey, and New York – have issued shelter-in-place orders that apply to the entire state or one or more counties within the state. The intent is to enforce social distancing and slow the spread of COVID-19, reported Wired.

Mandates varied by region. Many included closing non-essential businesses and required residents to stay home unless they were buying groceries or gasoline, filling prescriptions, seeking medical care, or exercising outdoors (while practicing social distancing).

The shape of many Americans’ daily lives has changed significantly. Last week, Barron’s reported initial claims for unemployment benefits in the United States increased sharply, while U.S. manufacturing productivity dropped significantly.

The impact of measures taken to fight the spread of COVID-19 on companies, financial markets, and the economy is difficult to quantify at this point. However, there is reason to hope it will be relatively brief. The Economist reported:

“Despite stomach-churning declines in GDP [gross domestic product, which is the value of goods and services produced in a nation or region] in the first half of this year, and especially the second quarter, most forecasters assume that the situation will return to normal in the second half of the year, with growth accelerating in 2021 as people make up for lost time.”

Monetary stimulus will have a significant impact on outcomes around the globe. Central banks have been implementing supportive monetary policies. Last week, the Federal Reserve lowered its benchmark rate to near zero, announced a new round of quantitative easing, and took additional steps to inject liquidity into markets.

Fiscal stimulus – the measures implemented by governments – will also be critical. To date, the United States has passed two stimulus measures. The first provided $8.3 billion in emergency funding for federal agencies to fight COVID-19. The second is estimated to deliver about $100 billion for testing, paid family and sick leave (two weeks), funds for Medicaid and food security programs, and increases in unemployment benefits. The third stimulus is currently being negotiated in Congress and may provide more than $1 trillion dollars in relief to individuals and companies, reported Axios. On Sunday, Reuters reported the Senate planned to vote on the bill on Monday, March 23, 2020.

Major U.S. stock indices finished last week lower, reported CNBC.

We hope you and your family are well and remain so. Please take the precautions advised by your city, state, and federal governments to limit the advance of COVID-19.


Breathe for Your Life Health and Well Being

Breath is life. Life is breath. The yoga sages of India have embraced this link for centuries, where conscious breathing has long been an integral part of daily life. More recently, Western researchers have also begun to acknowledge the importance of the breath. As data accumulate, they are beginning to acknowledge that perhaps breathing is a far more important metabolic process than previously believed.

The Trouble with Shallow Breathing

Because most of us are not aware of our breathing, we don’t use our full breathing capacity. But inefficient or poor breathing can result in low energy, high stress and toxicity levels, and a sluggish emotional state. When done properly on the other hand, breathing can have a tremendous impact on mental, physical, and spiritual health. Shallow breathing does not provide sufficient oxygen to our brain or other cells in our bodies. Insufficient oxygen in the tissues, known as hypoxia, has been linked with degenerative disease. When our oxygen level is depleted, our body’s ability to detoxify itself is depleted, as well. This increases our susceptibility to illness and disease. Shallow, rushed breathing aggravates stress, asthma, fatigue, insomnia, and many other ailments. Shallow breathing fails to produce the natural flow of our internal organs and fluids that is created by deeper, more natural breathing.

Emotions and Breath

Emotions and breath are also linked. Pain can interrupt the breathing process altogether, causing you to “forget” to breathe each time the pain strikes. Undoubtedly, emotions can disrupt the natural flow of breathing, which in turn can diminish your energy. While taking in more oxygen is important, it may not be as important as its distribution. Oxygen consumption and distribution is best accomplished when we are serene and peaceful. During meditation, for example, circulation within the muscles is significantly increased. Relaxation allows us to breathe more effectively, and breathing more effectively allows us to relax.

Catch the Wave

When we breathe fully and deeply, the diaphragm goes down during inhalation and up during exhalation. The more the diaphragm moves, the more our lungs expand. This produces a gentle, wave-like motion that naturally stimulates and detoxifies our inner organs. You can teach yourself to breathe deeply, but it is a subtle learning process that requires perseverance and practice. Initially, you may feel discouraged or as though you aren’t doing anything. Try lying on your back, and placing your hand on your abdomen. Always breathe through your nose and out through your mouth, evenly, steadily, and deeply. Feel your abdomen inflate on the inhalation and deflate on the exhalation. Once you feel comfortable, sit upright and practice deep breathing in the vertical position.

Below are a few suggestions for incorporating deep breathing into your daily life:

Yoga, the Sanskrit word for union, allows you to unite body, mind, and spirit into a balanced whole. Yoga combines poses, deep breathing, and relaxation. Many people experience an energy boost soon after starting even the most basic yoga program. Hatha yoga, in particular, is designed for relaxing and releasing deep body tension, bringing balance to the nervous system, and stimulating internal organ function. Breathing evenly, without strain, is a primary component of hatha yoga.

The Alexander Technique, founded by Frederick Alexander, is a gentle process of relaxation, motion and awareness that incorporates breath, mind and body.

Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese system of slow and graceful motion that benefits body, mind, and spirit. Literally translated, tai means big or great, and chi means ultimate energy. Through gentle, yet powerful dance-like movement, Tai Chi stimulates a freeing flow of energy. Each movement is accompanied by the breath. Gradually, the deeper, more conscious breathing becomes more natural.

Stop and take some time to focus on your breathing. Doing so can benefit your body, mind, and spirit.