The Economic Impact of COVID-19: According to Business Leaders
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The Economic Impact of COVID-19, According to Business Leaders

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The Economic Impact of COVID-19, According to Global Business Leaders

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The Economic Impact of COVID-19: Positives and Negatives

The global pandemic has disrupted business activities worldwide. But COVID-19’s economic impact has varied across regions, and the consequences have been largely dependent on a region’s economic position.

Using survey data from the World Economic Forum’s 20th Global Competitiveness Report, this graphic showcases the economic impact of COVID-19 worldwide. This year’s survey was conducted between February and July 2020 and includes responses from 11,866 business executives across 126 economies.

As you’ll see, the data was collected with the specific focus of contrasting the pandemic’s effects on developing economies compared to advanced economies.

Top Negative Impacts of COVID-19

By comparing business leaders’ responses in 2020 to their answers over the last three years, some clear trends have emerged.

In advanced economies, the top negative economic impact of COVID-19 has been a decline in competition, followed by reduced collaboration between companies and a growing challenge in finding and hiring skilled workers:

RankFactor% Change (2020 vs. 3-Yr Avg)
1Competition in network services-2.9%
2Collaboration between
companies
-2.6%
3Competition
in professional services
-2.3%
4Competition in retail services-1.8%
5Ease of finding skilled employees-1.5%

What’s driving this reduced competition in advanced economies?

One factor could be the increased use of online platforms. Ecommerce is heavily dominated by a select number of retailers. Because of this, bigger retailers like Amazon have seen massive boosts in their online sales, while many smaller brick-and-mortar businesses have been struggling.

While negative impacts on advanced economies are centered around market concentration and talent gaps, developing countries have faced different problems this year, like increased crime and governance issues:

RankFactor% Change (2020 vs. 3-Yr Avg)
1Business costs of crime and violence-2.5%
2Judicial
independence
-2.4%
3Organized crime-1.2%
4Extent of market dominance-0.6%
5Public trust of politicians-0.4%

It’s important to note that in the 2018 and 2019 surveys, organized crime and business costs related to crime and violence were trending downward. Because of this, the World Economic Forum suggests that we consider this year’s increase in these areas as as a temporary COVID-induced setback rather than a long-term issue.

Top Positive Impacts of COVID-19

Despite the struggles brought on by COVID-19, the pandemic has also triggered positive change. In fact, business leaders perceived more positive developments this year than negative ones.

In advanced economies, the top positive impacts were government responsiveness to change, followed by internal collaboration within companies:

RankFactor% Change (2020 vs. 3-Yr Avg)
1Government's responsiveness to change8.2%
2Collaboration within a company4.6%
3Venture capital availability4.4%
4Social safety net protection4.2%
5Soundness of banks4.0%

Interestingly, internal collaboration improved while external collaboration got worse. This is likely because companies had to adapt to changing work environments, while also learning how to collaborate with one another through remote working.

Internal collaboration didn’t just improve in advanced economies. In fact, developing economies experienced several of the top positive impacts that advanced economies saw as well:

RankFactor % Change (2020 vs. 3-Yr Avg)
1Collaboration within a company6.9%
2Government's responsiveness to change6.8%
3Efficiency of train transport services5.9%
4Venture capital availability5.9%
5Country capacity to attract talent5.8%

While perceptions on official responsiveness to change increased, public trust in politicians decreased slightly. This indicates that, while government responses to COVID-19 may have been received well in developing economies, overall feelings towards political leaders did not waiver.

How Have Countries Stayed Strong During the Pandemic?

While the impacts of COVID-19 varied between advanced and developing economies, business leaders across the board identified some common features that helped countries remain resilient:

  1. Economic digitization and digital skills
    Social distancing has been a key response to the pandemic. Because of this, countries that were set up for remote work have fared better than others. Netherlands, New Zealand, and Finland are a few examples.
  2. Safety nets and financial soundness
    Countries with established support systems for companies and citizens were in a better position to keep their economies afloat. Denmark and Norway provided much-needed support to their households, while Taiwan and the U.S. were able to aid businesses thanks to strong financial systems.
  3. Governance and planning
    Balancing health priorities with economic and fiscal policies was a delicate dance this year. Countries that provided relatively stable political frameworks were Singapore, Luxembourg, Austria, and the United Arab Emirates.
  4. Healthcare system and R&D
    A strong healthcare system meant widespread access to health services needed during the pandemic, as well as established public health protocols. Japan, Spain, and Taiwan were good examples of this.

Will these key features of competitiveness remain effective measures of a strong economy in 2021, or will our benchmarks for success evolve post-pandemic?

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Energy

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.

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commodity returns 2021 preview

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.

Commodity2021 Returns
Coal160.61%
Crude Oil55.01%
Gas46.91%
Aluminum42.18%
Zinc31.53%
Nickel26.14%
Copper25.70%
Corn22.57%
Wheat20.34%
Lead18.32%
Gold-3.64%
Platinum-9.64%
Silver-11.72%
Palladium-22.21%

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.

Energy commodity returns 2021

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.

Metals price performance 2021

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.

Grains price performance 2021

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.

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Technology

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.

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apple 3 trillion market cap

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/IndexMarket Cap ($T)Country of Origin
Apple$3.00T🇺🇸
FTSE 100$2.90T🇬🇧
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:

CompanyRevenue Per Minute
Amazon$955,517
Apple$848,090
Alphabet (Google)$433,014
Microsoft$327,823
Facebook$213,628
Tesla$81,766
Netflix$50,566

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)
Apple$3.0T
Italy$2.0T
Brazil$1.8T
Canada$1.7T
Russia$1.7T
South Korea$1.6T
Australia$1.4T
Spain$1.4T
Mexico$1.3T
Indonesia$1.1T

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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