Ebola scare makes roadkill out of Thursday’s big stock rally

Mmmm, tasty. This selection of African bushmeat looks a bit like preserved roadkill. Plus, it can transmit Ebola. The latest Ebola scare spooked Thursday's markets. (Via Wikipedia.)

WASHINGTON, October 24, 2014 – It’s a modestly up market Friday afternoon, with averages up decently as of 2:00 p.m. EDT. This is likely the remnant of Thursday’s massive rally, a near buying-panic that was cut short by the week’s second damaging rumor—this one true—about yet another Ebola patient slipping through the CDC’s porous protocols, this time in New York City itself.

Things were allegedly contained, Ebola-wise yesterday evening when the infected doctor, no less, checked into the hospital after having gone bowling the previous evening. This sort of thing isn’t exactly a confidence builder when it comes to the kind of government excellence Democrats love to tout, which is why the Administration felt compelled to appoint a PR shill as its “Ebola Czar” last week.

So it goes, as the late Kurt Vonnegut often observed.

Ebola, we’re told, is actually a bit of a species jumper. The disease gets fired up when humans dine on tasty but infected bats—apparently considered a delicacy in parts of Western Africa—or certain other “bushmeats” that serve as intermediaries for Ebola. The CDC’s helpful chart below explains it all to you. It’s encouraging that CDC can at least do competent graphics.

Ebola cycle in the wild, chart by CDC.
Ebola cycle in the wild, chart by CDC. Note the verbiage about the Reston virus. That’s the one that got loose in that DC area Virginia suburb in 1990 at a Hazleton Lab facility about a mile from where the Maven has lived since 1983. The incident was the basis for the 1995 film “Outbreak.” Fortunately, the spread was contained in the building, and that particular strain proved not transmissible to humans. But the building was razed in 1995. A new structure on the site now houses a Kindercare. So it goes.

Anyhow, thinking about the infected bat thing gave the Maven the creeps when he was out conducting some business at his West Virginia weekend place Thursday. Upon entering that delightful but always-being-renovated 1924-era money pit, the Maven discovered a tiny bat plopped squarely on the downstairs bathroom floor. Cautious examination tentatively determined the bat in question was, like John Cleese’s parrot, quite thoroughly deceased. But the exterminator was called in anyway, since even U.S. bats can carry other nefarious diseases, and the Maven has dealt with enough issues this year already.

Fortunately for traders—including the Maven—who only care about profit and loss, once bad news like this gets out of the way, previous trends tend to resume. The Maven is getting his WV attic cleaned out next week, the New York-based doctor is in Bellvue, and, hopefully, they’re cleaning up all the bowling balls in the bowling alley that hosted him before he decided he had Ebola. All’s right with the world, at least today.

Hence, today’s cautious upward motion on Wall Street.

Things like trading are likely to remain somewhat positive for at least a few more days. For various reasons, many mutual funds close their annual books at the end of October. So there’s likely to be a lot of buying before then as the funds will want to make it look like they had big winners in their portfolio all along, at least in their final quarter.

This is duplicitous, of course, if not outright illegal. But given that most of the government’s various enforcers aspire to real jobs in the financial industry once their government apprenticeship is over, they’re not going to antagonize people they’d like to work for and so the nonsense continues.

It’s a little bit like the rough English translation of “Così fan tutte,” Mozart’s still popular comic opera: “They All Do It.”

So it goes.

On other fronts, Amazon put out rotten quarterly numbers yesterday, proving that even geniuses like Jeff Bezos can get too far in front of themselves, losing money and embarking on dubious new ventures to gain market share. The big bomb in yesterday’s numbers was the faceplant of Amazon’s highly touted (by them) new smartphone, “Fire.” So far, “Fire” has entirely failed to catch fire, leaving Amazon with a big, zombified splotch of red ink just in time for Halloween.

Why Amazon, which is sometimes breathtaking in its corporate arrogance, thought they could suddenly make money with an also-ran device in a Samsung-Apple-Android-dominated world is beyond the Maven’s ken. You can’t beat everybody in everything. Thinking so leads to hubris and death. But what do we know, right?

Anyhow, we’ll take a half-decent close today so we can enjoy the weekend. Who knows what fun and games we’ll encounter during Halloween week? Those mutual funds will be doing what they can to stuff their portfolios with investor candy, even as the HFTs try to pick them off and exploit the trades.

All that having been said, the Fed still seems resolute in cutting off the feedback at the close of next week. So the Fed’s big trick could trump next weeks’ treats in short order.

We will wait and see. No particular trading tips for today, except this one: start your weekend early if you can. Looks like nice weather for at least the early part of the weekend here in DC. If that’s true for you, enjoy. Old Man Winter isn’t far behind.

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Terry Ponick
Biographical Note: Dateline Award-winning music and theater critic for The Connection Newspapers and the Reston-Fairfax Times, Terry was the music critic for the Washington Times print edition (1994-2010) and online Communities (2010-2014). Since 2014, he has been the Business and Entertainment Editor for Communities Digital News (CDN). A former stockbroker and a writer and editor with many interests, he served as editor under contract from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and continues to write on science and business topics. He is a graduate of Georgetown University (BA, MA) and the University of South Carolina where he was awarded a Ph.D. in English and American Literature and co-founded one of the earliest Writing Labs in the country. Twitter: @terryp17
  • Jack Ross

    The more that people find out about Obamacare, the more they realize it’s going to hurt people.

  • Jorge Orwell

    If healthcare is so important to Obama, why has he only met with the Secretary of Health and Human Services once in the last four years?