Coronavirus: Market Watch
At a time filled with so much uncertainty, it is critical to remember the following mantra: DO NOT PANIC! DO NOT PANIC! DO NOT PANIC!
Say it with me, one more time. DO. NOT. PANIC.
The last few weeks have been nothing short of chaotic due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) which has swept the globe, infecting over 108,000 people with more than 3,400 deaths. Currently, with more than 500 confirmed cases and 22 deaths in the United States we have moved past containment and have been told to be prepared for disruption to our daily routine.
What does this mean?
It is possible you may have to work from home, and in the event you are exposed to the virus, feel sick or are near someone exhibiting signs of illness, be prepared to self-isolate for up to 14 days. This means having enough food and supplies on hand to cover every member of your household in the event you can't leave. Here is a short list of items to give you an idea of what you should have in case of an emergency or quarantine:
- Bottled Water (1 gallon per person for each day you plan to be quarantined)
- Anti-Bacterial Hand Soap
- Medical Supplies (contact lenses, contact solution, hearing aid batteries)
- First Aid Kit (bandages, disinfectant)
- Prescription Medication (30 day supply) plus any OTC (over the counter) meds you might need like Advil, Tylenol etc.
- Canned Foods (meat, vegetables, in liquid that can be used for cooking)
- Cereal, Rice, Beans, Oats (oatmeal, grains)
- Chocolate or some type of alternate sweet (studies show the importance on maintaining optimal mental health)
- Latex gloves, N95 face masks (respirators)
You can also follow the latest news regarding Coronavirus in New York state here.
Why does this seem so bad?
Lack of preparation, transparency from the CDC, clear direction from the government, and a President who fails to inspire confidence in the American people has caused panic across the country in the form of unnecessary hoarding of household supplies like toilet paper and bottled water, xenophobic discrimination and hate crimes against people of Asian descent. It has also rocked the global financial markets as traders desperately seek answers and a bottom to the rout.
By 10pm EST yesterday, it was clear that the world was in for another rough week. U.S. Stock market futures were down near 5% overnight which triggered a halt in trading. Over the years, certain measures were put in place designed to prevent panic from tanking equities markets and give investors time to digest the latest market news. Historically, it has worked exactly as intended and is a critical tool in times of great volatility. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) was down 1,200 points in pre-market trading and global markets were in a free-fall for the rest of the night.
And then the market opened......
For the first time since 1997 trading was halted on the New York Stock Exchange this morning for 15 minutes following a 7% drop in the S&P 500. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) was also down over 1,900 points when the 'circuit' was broken. Designed to prevent a free fall in equities, 3 "circuit breakers" were put in place in the event certain benchmarks were hit, the first of which occurred at 9:35am EST (only 4 minutes after the opening bell!). Trading resumed at 9:49am. If stocks continue to fall and hit a 13% drop for the day, another 15 minute pause will take place. In the event that stocks retreat more than 20%, the market would be closed for the rest of the day.
Oil War For the Ages??
More bad news originating from last week's failed OPEC+ alliance meeting sent oil prices plummeting as a price war broke out in Riyadh. Saudi Arabia has announced a massive price cut for their oil, while sources claim they plan to simultaneously increase production to more than 10,000,000 barrels per day with the possibility of exceeding 12,000,000 barrels on some days. This "Shock & Awe" tactic is a desperate attempt by the Saudi's to increase marketshare worldwide. In response, Russia has indicated they will also increase their production to maximum levels. And the price war has begun.
The last time a price war this serious broke out was during the first Gulf War in 1991. As of the opening bell this morning, the price of a barrel of oil dropped more than 30% ($27).
What does this mean for the west?
Quite possibly the end of the U.S. Shale market, for starters. With the price of oil below $30 a barrel, oil wells in West Texas are now operating at a loss.
Since 2014 the price of oil has been subject to wild volatility as the west became one of the largest exporters of shale oil in the world and price manipulation out of Saudi Arabia saw the price of oil drop from $100/barrel to less than $40. Despite a few brief periods of upswings, it still has not returned to normal levels and is showing no signs of recovery.
It is important to remind yourself that things will get better. Do not panic. Life will get better, the world will come to its senses and you just have to give it time.
Hang in there.
Looking for a job? In addition to encountering those annoying never-ending job interviews you may find yourself face-to-face with an artificial intelligence bot.
Companies worldwide increasingly use artificial intelligence tools and analytics in employment decision-making – from parsing through resumes and screening candidates to automated assessments and digital interviews. But recent studies claim that AI does more harm than good.
While AI screening tools were developed to save companies time and money, they’ve been criticized for placing women and people of color at a disadvantage. The problem is that many companies lack appreciable diversity in their data set, making it impossible for an algorithm to know how people from underrepresented groups have performed in the past. As a result, the algorithm will be biased toward the data available and compare future candidates to that archetype.
The City’s Automated Employment Decision Tools (AEDT) law is designed to offset the potential misuse of AI and protect job candidates against discrimination. It was enforced on July 5th, 2023 in New York City - with other cities and states expected to gradually follow suit. Employers must now inform applicants when and how they encounter AI. Furthermore, companies have to commission a third-party audit of the AI software used, and publish a summary of the results to prove that their systems aren’t racist or sexist. Job applicants are able to request information regarding what data is collected and analyzed by the AI. Violations of the law can result in fines of up to $1,500.
Replacing Human Hiring Decisions
However, should a job applicant want to opt-out of such impersonal judgement by a bot, the new law's scope is quite limited.
While the law specifies that instructions for requesting an alternative selection process must be included in the AI screening disclosure, companies aren't actually required to use other screening methods. Not to mention that the law only applies to AI in hiring and not any other employment decisions. It also wouldn't apply if the AI, for example, flags candidates with relevant experience, but a human then reviews all applications, making the ultimate hiring decision.
Some civil rights advocates and public interest groups argue that the law isn’t extensive enough and that it’s even unenforceable. On the other hand, businesses say that it’s impractical, costly, and burdensome, and that independent audits aren’t feasible.
Responsible use of AI in hiring
Although this law may be a good first attempt to assign more regulatory guardrails around AI, it remains to be seen if it ensures the responsible use of AI in hiring processes. At the end of the day, perhaps recruiting talent should remain a human-made decision.
The good news is that AI can help companies without harming potential job candidates in many ways – such as connecting new employees with internal organizational information and company benefits during onboarding. Or helping employees to do their jobs more effectively rather than replacing them.
There’s all this talk about solo travel. And for good reason — no wasting precious time waiting for others to get their act together, take the plans out of the group chat and actually buy the tickets. Going solo, you can be spontaneous. You can plan your trips according to your precise tastes. You can hop on any flight and fly awayyyyyy.
But what if each time you flew you’d get a free ticket? That’s what you get with the Southwest Companion Pass.
Award status, upgrades, lounge access — there are many perks in the frequent flier game. But one of the coveted holy grails is the Southwest Companion Pass.
What is the Southwest Companion Pass?
The Companion Pass is part of Southwest’s Rapid Rewards program. You get to choose one person to be your “companion,” and they fly with you for free (plus some taxes and fees) on every flight. That’s right. Two for the price of one. That’s half off each ticket if you split it! Whether you’re flying with a partner, family member, friend, or anyone else, they can tag along for free.
And it gets better: once you earn the pass, you can reap the rewards for that full calendar year … AND the next. That’s why people go mad trying to earn a companion pass during the early months of the year. The sooner you qualify, the longer you can use it.
There are also no blackout dates. There are no limits. And if you didn’t purchase the ticket (think: work travel, your companion, or a generous benefactor), there are no restrictions! As long as you’re the one on the plane, your companion can also … be on the plane.
You can also switch out your designated companion 3x a year. So, no need to stay in a relationship simply to get the most out of your companion pass! Ghost and fly away — with a whole new companion!
If this sounds too good to be true — it’s not. But there is one small catch. It’s kinda tough to earn this mega reward.
How to qualify for the Southwest Companion Pass?
You can qualify for the pass in one of two ways:
- Fly 100 qualifying one-way flights
- Earn 135,000 qualifying points in a calendar year.
Clearly, this is no small feat — especially if you’re trying to qualify ASAP.
So how do you actually earn the Southwest Companion Pass?
Don’t worry, there’s a path to earning this amazing reward without climbing on 100 flights or spending an exorbitant amount of money.
Earning 135K reward points may seem completely impossible, but it’s easier than it sounds. Simply sign up for a Southwest Credit Card and turn those spending habits into a rapid rewards account. Through the Rewards Priority Credit Card, earn points when using local transit and commuting, plus score major points and miles whenever you spend.
Stay with me here. This is not some scheme to get you into credit card debt. Many airline cards come with potential savings, giantic rewards, awarding you points, and cashback with every purchase you make that can be redeemed for travel. And often they can come with passive sign-up bonuses. If you spend a specific amount of money within a certain timeframe of opening the card, you can be in for a windfall of points.
Now that’s where the companion pass comes in:
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card
- Southwest Priority Credit Card
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card
- Southwest Performance Business Credit Card
Southwest has three personal cards and a business card. Each of these cards offers rewards between 30K-80K points. In the past, people could open two cards and get a bonus that granted enough points to almost meet the minimum. However, with new restrictions on personal cards, you can only get one bonus every 24 months. Boo!
However, this doesn’t apply to business cards. If you’re eligible, have good credit, and not likely to spiral into insane credit card debt, you can open a business card and a personal card, and accrue 100K+ points. The Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card will get you points after you spend money in no time.
Now to earn the rest of them.
The secret to gaining these credit card points is to plan your card sign-ups around big purchases. Just before a recent move, I opened a card . . . and the rewards came rolling in — a small balm to ease the pain of how exorbitant moving can be.
Put everyday spend — especially big purchases or bulk items — on your Southwest credit card and watch your award points quickly add up. Typically, you earn 1 point per $1 spent on your Southwest card and 2 points per $1 on actual Southwest purchases.
But there are other ways to earn points, including:
- Flying Southwest: Booking travel on Southwest earns more points. The cost of this travel will be worth it with your companion pass
- Shopping from Rapid Rewards Partners: Purchases with Southwest’s “Home & Lifestyle” and “Shop and Dine” Partners also earn Companion Pass qualifying points. While you shouldn’t make gratuitous purchases, browse Southwest’s partners to see if you could earn extra points for items you'd be purchasing anyway. All this, simply from enrolling in their Dining Program and shopping with their partners.
So there you have it! And since it’s almost Spring, get to earning and soon you’ll be flying two for the price of one!