An Investor’s Guide to Avian Flu

Tearsheet / by Don Hoyt Gorman /

Sobering advice on public health—from bankers

Credit: Cruz Puga

Just as the story of a possible outbreak of avian flu started to roll to the top of the news cycle worldwide, investment bank BMO Nesbitt Burns released a series of documents whose aim was to confront the financial realities of a pandemic. The contents—a macabre mix of public health and investment strategies—are a source of some unflinchingly frank reality checks. A few excerpts:

“To the extent that a disproportionate share of 20 to 40-year-olds would die, housing markets would weaken in response to excess supply, and all related building, real estate, decorating, and furnishing companies would suffer. Property values would fall, and some would be had later at bargain-basement prices”

“If H5N1 results in a cytokine storm, the average age of the already aging population would increase and birth rates would be reduced for a generation. It would also create sustained labor shortages in the industrial world as the baby boomers retire and the group next in line would be smaller.”

“Those who could protect their assets and hoard cash would ultimately benefit by buying real estate, farms, businesses and stocks at extraordinary bargains. This sounds rather callous, because the death toll could be so high, but those with liquid assets in the lead-up to the Depression were able to scoop up the property of those who were heavily indebted. A pandemic would be even worse in that many would avoid homelessness and soup lines, having paid the ultimate price.”

Originally published January 10, 2006


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