Business Columns & Blogs

Hoping for any visibility

The news has been overwhelming. The infection and fatality counts have been devastating. The investment market volatility has been stomach-turning.

It’s not just uncertainty. It is invisibility.

Job cuts are happening. Business has disappeared. Profits have vanished. Growth has evaporated. Survival mode has kicked in. Fear has gripped the economy and markets, and for good reason.

Investors, business owners, and consumers — everyone — have been seeking signs of stability. There have been few. Those that have appeared — direct payments to Americans, $1 trillion stimulus-rescue-spending plans, 0 percent Federal Reserve interest rates — haven’t proved to be taproots from which optimism may spring.

The week ahead will bring the climbing toll of COVID-19 — infections, deaths and economic destruction — and the search for visibility of the future.

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“The best-case scenario doesn’t even look that good,” said Stephen Sawitz, COO of Joe’s Stone Crab Restaurant in Miami Beach. Restaurants and bars were ordered closed in Miami Dade County to fight the spread of coronavirus. I asked him what the restaurant industry in South Florida could look like in a month or six months. His assessment might as well apply far beyond his historic restaurant steps from a now-closed South Beach.

Joe’s has seen a lot. It was 5 years old when the 1918 flu pandemic hit. It survived the Great Depression, two world wars, an oil price shock, double-digit inflation, the Internet bubble, 9/11, and a housing market collapse.

There is the other side to this crisis. It’s just impossible to see what that future looks like right now.

Tom Hudson hosts “The Sunshine Economy” on WLRN-FM, where he’s vice president of news. Twitter: @HudsonsView.

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