(Apr 13): Four times a year, investors assess the performance of companies worldwide with a fairly standard toolkit: revenue growth, net income, gross margin, free cash flow, debt – all weighed in comparison to analysts’ predictions and what rivals report.

This earnings season, with the coronavirus pandemic claiming lives and sowing chaos across the globe, those yardsticks are mostly meaningless, leaving the investment community lost in a fog at a time market volatility has hit historic levels.

In March, as governments ordered lockdowns to stop the spread of the virus, the global economy slipped into contraction for the first time since the financial crisis. Expecting the fallout will get worse, ratings agency Fitch said we’re headed toward a “deep global recession.”

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