President Donald Trump on Tuesday continued his ill-advised campaign to downplay concerns about the global coronavirus pandemic, but don't you dare call it that according to the Chinese PR and tourism agency known as the World Health Organization, saying it was "very well under control in our country," one day after the White House requested $2.5 billion in emergency funding to deal with the epidemic.
“We have very few people with it," Trump told reporters during a press conference in New Delhi as he wrapped up his two-day visit to India. "The people are getting, they’re all getting better...I think the whole situation will start working out."
Trump's campaign to boost confidence in the US coronavirus response came one day after the Dow posted just its third 1,000+ point drop in history amid fears of a global coronavirus pandemic. As such, Trump's push was focused on avoiding another major drop in his favorite barometer of presidential popularity: the stock market.
Alas, in his overeagerness to restore confidence, and get mom and pop investors to BTFD, Trump hinted that he may have discovered a cure for the coronavirus, saying that health officials were "close to a vaccine", without offering any further details, and also said that he spoke to Chinese President Xi Jinping, who he said "is committed to solving that problem" and is "working very hard."
Trump's comment came shortly after the WSJ reported that drugmaker Moderna has shipped the first batch of its "rapidly developed coronavirus vaccine" to U.S. government researchers, who will launch the first human tests of whether the experimental shot could help suppress the epidemic originating in China. As such, Trump's comment certainly helped boost confidence and raised the odds of a Tuesday turnaround.
There was just one problem: in response to Trump's vaccine remark, the White House was forced to quickly step in and retract what the president said, explaining that Trump's comments about being 'very close' to a vaccine was in reference to Ebola, not Coronavirus, according to the WSJ. That said, why anyone would care if the US is close to an Ebola vaccine was not exactly clear.
I MEANT EBOLA GODDAMMIT. pic.twitter.com/0KAd4qEA6d— RANsquawk (@RANsquawk) February 25, 2020
Of course, this doesn't change the fact that we are now back to the old paradigm where Trump - having now learned the difference between Ebola and Coronavirus - will take every public speaking opportunity to note that we are close to
a Phase 1 trade deal a vaccine, in hopes of boosting the market.
Alas, unlike the trade war whose impact on the US was negligible, and the so-called trade deal which achieved absolutely nothing besides a few vague, impossible promises from China, with talking down the coronavirus, Trump is making a huge gamble because if the US economy does crater in Q2 and/or Q3 and stocks tumble ahead of the election as investor panic about the pandemic goes viral, so to speak, Trump may have well jeopardized his re-election chances by desperately seeking to boost stocks and minimize the potentially devastating consequences of an event that could become "Trump's Katrina" only with a far greater social and economic cost.