It is no surprise that the Atalanta Fed/Chicago Booth/Stanford Survey of Business Uncertainty showed the uncertainty index jumped to a series high of 136.2 in March, nor that the expectations index plunged to its lowest reading at 53.6. The numbers confirm that businesses are badly rattled by the efforts to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. It is clear that the hospitality industry has been gutted by the abrupt cessation of all types of travel, and that social distancing has made discretionary shopping and eating out by far the exception in consumer activity. Telework means that businesses and services associated with commuting have also seen massive declines in activity.
There are too many unknowns to accurately quantify, and that elevates the fears and risks facing the economy. As hard numbers come in for March, the situation is going to look dire, at least in the initial stages.
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