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One Year In: Air Travel Plummeted During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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air travel plummeted during the pandemic

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The Briefing

  • In the spring of 2020, two-thirds of the world’s passenger jets were grounded
  • Lockdowns and travel restrictions have had a significant impact on commercial air travel—for 2020, the industry reported an estimated net loss of $118.5 billion

One Year In: Air Travel Plummeted during COVID-19 Pandemic

It’s no surprise that the commercial air travel industry took a hit in 2020, given the pandemic-induced travel restrictions that began early last year.

However, it’s worth noting the sheer magnitude of the situation—according to IATA, COVID-19 was the most drastic hit to the industry since World War II.

Low Air Travel, Steep Losses

To measure air traffic, IATA uses the industry-wide metric revenue passenger kilometers (RPK). RPK is calculated by taking the number of revenue-paying passengers, and multiplying that by the total distance traveled.

In 2020 as a whole, RPK dropped by 66%—the steepest yearly decline in aviation history. As a result, the global aviation industry reported an estimated net loss of $118.5 billion.

International vs. Domestic

International air travel was hit a lot harder than domestic travel—in 2020, RPK for the worldwide international market fell 75.6%. In April, when strict lockdowns limited travel the most, international RPK was down 98% year-over-year.

In contrast, domestic only dropped by 48.8% in 2020 as a whole.

In terms of regional markets, Asia Pacific saw the largest decrease in RPK, with a decrease of more than 80%.

International MarketRPK for 2020 (% year-on-year)
Africa-69.8%
Asia Pacific-80.3%
Europe-73.7%
Latin America-71.8%
Middle East-72.9%
North America-75.4%

On the domestic side of things, Australia saw one of the steepest drops in RPK, at 69.5%. This makes sense, given the country’s relatively strict COVID-19 restrictions and regional lockdowns.

Domestic MarketRPK for 2020 (% year-on-year)
🇦🇺 Australia-69.5%
🇧🇷 Brazil-49.0%
🇨🇳 China-30.8%
🇮🇳 India-55.6%
🇯🇵 Japan-53.6%
🇷🇺 Russia-23.5%
🇺🇲 U.S.-59.6%

Note: These domestic passenger markets accounted for 46% of global total RPKs and approximately 84% of total domestic RPKs in 2020

The Future Looks Bright

While 2020 was a tough year, the future of aviation looks promising.

For example, China’s domestic market showed a negative correlation between new COVID-cases and RPK. When cases were down, RPK increased drastically, showing that there’s pent-up demand.

So once the virus is eradicated and restrictions are lifted, IATA expects flight activity worldwide to bounce back, as they did in China.

» Want to learn more? Check out our COVID-19 information hub to help put the past year into perspective

Where does this data come from?

Source: IATA December 2020 Report

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Datastream

Bitcoin is the Fastest Asset to Reach a $1 Trillion Market Cap

Bitcoin is now part of a select very few assets that hold a market cap greater than $1 trillion. How long did it take to get there?

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Bitcoin fastest asset to $1 trillion

The Briefing

  • Bitcoin (BTC) hit a $1 trillion market cap in just 12 years, making it the fastest asset to do so
  • Investor sentiment towards BTC appears to be at extreme bullishness, with the asset adding roughly $500 billion in market cap just in 2021

Bitcoin is the Fastest Asset to Reach $1 Trillion

The world is moving forward at an accelerated pace. Historically, it’s taken multiple decades for companies to be worth $1 trillion. For bitcoin, it took just 12 short years to reach such a milestone.

To help put things into perspective, here’s a look at how long it took America’s biggest tech companies to reach the $1 trillion market cap.

AssetTime To Reach $1 TrillionCurrent Market Cap
Microsoft44 years$1.9 trillion
Apple42 years$2.2 trillion
Amazon24 years$1.7 trillion
Google21 years$1.5 trillion
Bitcoin12 years$1.1 trillion

Market caps as of April 12, 2021

Extreme Bullish Sentiment

Bitcoin has been subject to widespread commotion in markets.

At the start of 2021, the cryptocurrency had a more modest market cap of $500 billion, but has gained more than another $500 billion since. An onslaught of headlines has contributed to extremely bullish investor sentiment, including:

1. CEOs begin to show interest
Elon Musk and Jack Dorsey have made sizable investments in bitcoin through Tesla and Square, respectively. It’s estimated the gain from Tesla’s $1.5 billion bitcoin investment was greater than the profits from the entirety of their business in 2020.

2. New ETFs on the block
Multiple Bitcoin ETFs focused were recently approved by Canadian regulators and some have already launched on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX). For many years, the Grayscale Bitcoin Trust (GBTC) was the only readily accessible investment vehicle trading on equity markets that had exposure to BTC.

3. Financial institutions finally joining in?
Mastercard, Visa, and Bank of New York Mellon have made announcements to make it easier for customers to use cryptocurrencies.

On to the Next Trillion?

Future projections for the price of bitcoin are garnering more extreme and widening price targets.

The accelerated rate of change today has many of the Big Tech companies already inching closer to the next trillion in value. Will bitcoin follow suit?

Where does this data come from?

Source: coinmarketcap.com
Notes: Financial data is as of April 12, 2021

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Datastream

What The Data Says About Wealth Inequality

Over the past decade, the top 1% of U.S. households’ portion of wealth has gone from 28.6% to 31.2%.

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The Briefing

  • Today, the top 1% of U.S. households own 31.2% of total wealth
  • Data going back over 200 years suggests that wealth inequality in both the U.S. and Europe reached its peak in the early 1900s

What The Data Says About Wealth Inequality

Wealth inequality has gone through peaks and troughs throughout history.

Most recently, in the decade between 2010 and 2020, the top 1% of U.S. households’ portion of wealth has gone from 28.6% to 31.2%.

However, when expressed in raw dollars, things begin to look different. Wealth during the same period for the 1% went from approximately $17.5 trillion to $35 trillion. Meanwhile, the total wealth pool rose from $60 trillion to $112 trillion.

In other words, all households by category have amassed wealth during the same period, albeit at different rates.

Household Wealth PercentileAnnual Growth in Wealth (CAGR)
Top 1%6.54%
90-99%5.75%
50-90%4.97%
Bottom 50%3.30%

Source: The Federal Reserve

Drivers Of Wealth Inequality

The longest bull market in history, which went from March 2009 to February 2020, has been a big driver for the recent divergence. The U.S. composition of wealth for the top 1% of households skews towards corporate equities and mutual funds, of which they collectively own $14 trillion. By contrast, the bottom 50% of households own $0.16 trillion.

It’s often said a stock market correction is long overdue. Since the top 1% of households clearly have the most skin in the game, if one were to transpire, wealth inequality would likely retract.

A Longer Term Look

Although the inequality of wealth is heavily discussed in today’s climate, the numbers have been higher before.

Wealth inequality, measured by the top 1% of U.S. households’ portion of wealth, was at its peak at the start of the 20th century. Back then, a harsh and more concrete class divide with lower rates of upward mobility were common themes.

2 centuries of wealth inequality

At its peak in 1910, the top 1% of U.S. households owned well over 40% of all wealth. Major world wars and the Great Depression seemed to be catalysts against this, and the years after WWII brought about some of the lowest levels of inequality seen in the modern era.

Wealth inequality has ebbed and flowed throughout history, but it has steadily crept back up in the last few decades. Today, its adverse effects continue to garner the attention of more people—including policy makers who are facing immense pressure to find a solution.

Where does this data come from?

Source: The Fed
Notes: This data covers Q2’2010-Q2’2020

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