Closer to home, the number of people infected in the UK increased to nine – after four more patients tested positive for the virus in the first week of February. That probably seems reassuring – at least relative to the epicentre of the outbreak – until you realise that if the numbers of the afflicted continue to double week on week, then the entire UK population would have been infected by 20 July.
Exponential growth on this scale is not unknown, though highly unlikely. A more immediate threat to investors may be rash and intemperate investment decisions. In his Journal of the Plague Year, published in 1722, Daniel Defoe takes an early stab at behavioural finance, when he laments that “[investor] fears were predominant over all their passions, and they threw away their money in a most distracted manner upon those whimsies”.