Last Wednesday, I sat down in my office in midtown Atlanta to conduct a lunchtime writing seminar in Durham, North Carolina. I had considered flying in for the event, but my schedule was in flux, and the hassle of transit for a short meeting seemed excessive. At the suggestion of my hosts, I logged in to the videoconferencing program Zoom instead and led the event from my desk chair.
I hadn’t avoided the trip out of concern about the coronavirus; my plans had been set before cases really began to crop up in the U.S. But over the next day, Zoom’s stock rose more than 10 percent, shored up on the perverse hope that global disruption might increase demand for remote meetings. In Italy, whole towns had been locked down, tens of thousands of people immobilized at home. Zoom was a diamond in the rough; lockdowns such as Italy’s and general global tumult caused by the uncertainty of pandemic drove most stocks down precipitously as cases of the disease known as COVID-19 ticked up in the United States and proliferated internationally.
Ever in search of the upside of a downturn, financial analysts started looking for companies such as Zoom, whose business might remain stable or even thrive under mass-quarantine conditions. Netflix shares, for example, inched up last week while other tech issues reliant on disrupted Chinese supply chains, such as Apple, fell. The equity-research analyst J. C. O’Hara dubbed these “stay-at-home stocks,” adding Facebook, Amazon, the streaming-workout provider Peloton, and the workplace-chat platform Slack to the list. “What would people do if stuck inside all day?” O’Hara asked, consecrating quarantine as a market trend.