Visualizing the Decline of Freedom Over 12 Consecutive Years
The Chart of the Week is a weekly Visual Capitalist feature on Fridays.
Like many other things in this world, the amount of freedom that people have ebbs and flows with time.
In general, it can be argued that political and economic freedoms have been increasing steadily since The Enlightenment – but of course, there are always shorter corrections along the way where freedom seems to spiral downwards in the interim.
Right now, we’re in one of those ruts, and global freedom has consecutively declined for a 12 year period.
Democracy in Crisis
Freedom in the World, a report published every year since 1973, attempts to measure civil liberties and political rights around the world. It’s put together by Freedom House, a non-governmental organization based in the United States.
According to their index, here is the share of “free” countries globally between 1973-2018:
This year’s report for 2018 is entitled “Democracy in Crisis”, and it sounds the alarm on eroding freedom throughout the world.
While the number of “free” countries is holding fairly steady at close to 45%, there is a clear downtrend with the scores of the countries themselves.
In 2017, for example, there were 71 countries that had net declines in score, while only 35 had net increases. This makes for a differential of -36, which is the widest gap during the 12 year downtrend.
Why do scores continue to decline?
Here are some of the specific examples, cited by the report:
- The erosion of democratic norms in the U.S., which is actually the extension of a seven year trend
- The expansion of influence from key autocracies, particularly Russia and China
- Turkey’s transition from “Partly Free” to “Not Free” – the result of President Erdoğan asserting more control over the country
- Big drops in the scores of European countries like Poland and Hungary, where populist leaders are consolidating power
- Another drop in Venezuela’s score, as the country undergoes a full-blown humanitarian crisis
- A recent backslide in the scores in Arab Spring countries – even in Tunisia, which was heralded as a democratic success story
For much more in-depth reading, here is a link to the full report PDF.
The Periodic Table of Commodity Returns (2012-2021)
Energy fuels led the way as commodity prices surged in 2021, with only precious metals providing negative returns.
The Periodic Table of Commodity Returns (2022 Edition)
For investors, 2021 was a year in which nearly every asset class finished in the green, with commodities providing some of the best returns.
The S&P Goldman Sachs Commodity Index (GSCI) was the third best-performing asset class in 2021, returning 37.1% and beating out real estate and all major equity indices.
This graphic from U.S. Global Investors tracks individual commodity returns over the past decade, ranking them based on their individual performance each year.
Commodity Prices Surge in 2021
After a strong performance from commodities (metals especially) in the year prior, 2021 was all about energy commodities.
The top three performers for 2021 were energy fuels, with coal providing the single best annual return of any commodity over the past 10 years at 160.6%. According to U.S. Global Investors, coal was also the least volatile commodity of 2021, meaning investors had a smooth ride as the fossil fuel surged in price.
Source: U.S. Global Investors
The only commodities in the red this year were precious metals, which failed to stay positive despite rising inflation across goods and asset prices. Gold and silver had returns of -3.6% and -11.7% respectively, with platinum returning -9.6% and palladium, the worst performing commodity of 2021, at -22.2%.
Aside from the precious metals, every other commodity managed double-digit positive returns, with four commodities (crude oil, coal, aluminum, and wheat) having their best single-year performances of the past decade.
Energy Commodities Outperform as the World Reopens
The partial resumption of travel and the reopening of businesses in 2021 were both powerful catalysts that fueled the price rise of energy commodities.
After crude oil’s dip into negative prices in April 2020, black gold had a strong comeback in 2021 as it returned 55.01% while being the most volatile commodity of the year.
Natural gas prices also rose significantly (46.91%), with the UK and Europe’s natural gas prices rising even more as supply constraints came up against the winter demand surge.
Despite being the second worst performer of 2020 with the clean energy transition on the horizon, coal was 2021’s best commodity.
High electricity demand saw coal return in style, especially in China which accounts for one-third of global coal consumption.
Base Metals Beat out Precious Metals
2021 was a tale of two metals, as precious metals and base metals had opposing returns.
Copper, nickel, zinc, aluminum, and lead, all essential for the clean energy transition, kept up last year’s positive returns as the EV batteries and renewable energy technologies caught investors’ attention.
Demand for these energy metals looks set to continue in 2022, with Tesla having already signed a $1.5 billion deal for 75,000 tonnes of nickel with Talon Metals.
On the other end of the spectrum, precious metals simply sunk like a rock last year.
Investors turned to equities, real estate, and even cryptocurrencies to preserve and grow their investments, rather than the traditionally favorable gold (-3.64%) and silver (-11.72%). Platinum and palladium also lagged behind other commodities, only returning -9.64% and -22.21% respectively.
Grains Bring Steady Gains
In a year of over and underperformers, grains kept up their steady track record and notched their fifth year in a row of positive returns.
Both corn and wheat provided double-digit returns, with corn reaching eight-year highs and wheat reaching prices not seen in over nine years. Overall, these two grains followed 2021’s trend of increasing food prices, as the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s food price index reached a 10-year high, rising by 17.8% over the course of the year.
As inflation across commodities, assets, and consumer goods surged in 2021, investors will now be keeping a sharp eye for a pullback in 2022. We’ll have to wait and see whether or not the Fed’s plans to increase rates and taper asset purchases will manage to provide price stability in commodities.
Apple’s Colossal Market Cap as it Hits $3 Trillion
Apple’s market cap recently hit $3 trillion. To put that scale into context, this visualization compares Apple to European indexes.
Apple’s Colossal Market Cap in Context
In January of 2019, Apple’s market capitalization stood at $700 billion.
While this was perceived as a colossal figure at the time, when we fast forward to today, that valuation seems a lot more modest. Since then, Apple has surged to touch a $3 trillion valuation on January 3rd, 2022.
To gauge just how monstrous of a figure this is, consider that Apple is no longer comparable to just companies, but to countries and even entire stock indexes. This animation from James Eagle ranks the growth in Apple’s market cap alongside top indexes from the UK, France, and Germany.
Let’s take a closer look.
Apple Takes On Europe
The three indexes Apple is compared to are heavyweights in their own right.
The FTSE 100 consists of giants like HSBC and vaccine producer AstraZeneca, while the CAC 40 Index is home to LVMH, which made Bernard Arnault the richest man in the world for a period of time last year.
Nonetheless, Apple’s market cap exceeds that of the 100 companies in the FTSE, as well as the 40 in each of the CAC and DAX indexes.
|Stock/Index||Market Cap ($T)||Country of Origin|
|CAC 40 Index||$2.76T||🇫🇷|
|DAX 40 (Dax 30) Index*||$2.50T||🇩🇪|
*Germany’s flagship DAX Index expanded from 30 to 40 constituents in September 2021.
It’s important to note, that while Apple’s growth is stellar, European companies have simultaneously seen a decline in their share of the overall global stock market, which helps make these comparisons even more eye-catching.
For example, before 2005, publicly-traded European companies represented almost 30% of global stock market capitalization, but those figures have been cut in half to just 15% today.
Here are some other approaches to measure Apple’s dominance.
Apple’s Revenue Per Minute vs Other Tech Giants
Stepping away from market capitalization, another unique way to measure Apple’s success is in how much sales they generate on a per minute basis. In doing so, we see that they generate a massive $848,090 per minute.
Here’s how Apple revenue per minute compares to other Big Tech giants:
|Company||Revenue Per Minute|
Furthermore, Apple’s profits aren’t too shabby either: their $20.5 billion in net income last quarter equates to $156,000 in profits per minute.
How Apple Compares To Countries
Lastly, we can compare Apple’s market cap to the GDP of countries.
|Country (excluding Apple)||Total Value ($T)|
What might be most impressive here is that Apple’s market cap eclipses the GDP of major developed economies, such as Canada and Australia. That means the company is more valuable than the entire economic production of these countries in a calendar year.
That’s some serious scale.
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