It’s hard to say for certain what the future holds.
Without the luxury of a crystal ball, investors must find opportunities by analyzing the market. There’s just one problem: the 24/7 news cycle is enough to make anyone’s head spin.
Where should an investor focus their attention, when almost every new venture is forecast to be the next big thing?
The Powerful Influence of Macro Trends
Today’s infographic comes to us from U.S. Global Investors, and it highlights how analyzing macro trends can serve as a key investment tool.
Two Main Investment Approaches
When selecting stocks, many investors fall into one of two camps:
1. Top-down Investing
- Analyze macroeconomic trends.
- Identify specific sectors and regions.
- Choose individual stocks based on company fundamentals.
Considering the aging Chinese population, a top-down investor may choose to invest in Chinese healthcare stocks.
2. Bottom-up Investing
- Complete in-depth company analyses.
- Select a stock that is outperforming others in its sector.
A bottom-up investor could analyze Home Depot and choose to invest if it had strong performance relative to Lowe’s.
These approaches can be used separately, or even combined together. Zooming out allows investors to identify the big picture opportunities. Then, a bottom-up approach can find the companies that best capitalize on each trend.
What is a Macro Trend?
A macro trend is a long-term directional shift that affects a large population, often on a global scale. For example, climate change is affecting industries in both positive and negative ways. While “green” industries have seen increased support, ski resorts are projected to have 50% shorter winter seasons by 2050.
There are a couple of main ways to identify macro trends:
- Government policy
Government policies are a precursor to change, shaping macro trends and creating opportunities. For instance, Obama’s Recovery Act fueled growth in renewable energy with a $90 billion investment.
- Economic cycles
The cyclical nature of the economy means that investors can also use history to identify macro trends. Consider fiscal and monetary policy, which is implemented in response to economic data:
- Expanding economy
The central bank raises rates and the government reduces fiscal stimulus. As a result, inflation is moderated.
- Contracting economy
The central bank lowers rates and the government increases fiscal stimulus. As a result, growth is stimulated.
- Expanding economy
Discovering Long-Term Value
Macro trends are a key tool for discovering long-term market opportunities. They are beneficial because they are:
- Unbiased and data-driven
- Not swayed by daily headlines
- Tend to avoid riskier, niche industries
- Can be diversified by sectors and regions
There are currently many macro trends at play. For example, Trump’s sweeping tax reform and deregulation boosted the U.S. economy, lifting GDP growth to a 13-year high of over 3% in 2018 Q3.
However, not everyone’s a winner. America’s reduced taxes have made Canada less competitive. It’s estimated that 4.9% of Canada’s GDP is at risk due to ripple effects from U.S. tax reform. What’s more, regulators worry that the bank deregulations might put the financial system at risk.
The proposals under consideration… weaken the buffers that are core to the resilience of our system.
— Lael Brainard, Member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve
So, how do investors distill this wealth of information into a future of wealth?
Spotting the Next Wave
In today’s hyper-connected world, it’s easy to get lost in data overload. Thinking big picture allows investors to focus on trends that:
- Have a long-term outlook
- Affect a large population
- Create a clearer vision of the future
Then, an investor can target the most promising regions and sectors. When used effectively, this approach enables investors to ride the next big wave that will shape markets.
Assembling the World Country-by-Country, Based on Economy Size
How does the world map change if it gets assembled based on the size of economies, in ascending order of GDP or GDP per capita?
If you had to sketch a world map, you’d probably start with a place that is familiar.
Perhaps you would begin by drawing your own continent, or maybe you’d focus on the specific borders of the country you live in. Then, you’d likely move to drawing the outlines of neighboring countries, eventually working your way to far and distant lands.
This would be a logical way for anyone to think about such a task, and it gives some insight as to how humans think about the world.
We start with what’s familiar, and build it out until it’s a complete picture.
Assembling the World by Economy Size
What if we assembled a world map in a completely different order?
Today’s two animations come to us from Engaging-Data, and they approach the world map from an alternate angle: assembling countries on the map in the order of their economic footprints.
The first map, shown below, uses nominal GDP to assemble countries in ascending order:
This version of the map shows the smallest economies first, with the larger economies at the end.
For this reason, the first economies appearing on the map tend to be developing nations, or nations with smaller geographical or demographic footprints.
For example, even though the Falkland Islands are wealthy on a per capita basis, the British Overseas Territory has fewer than 4,000 people, which gives it a minor footprint on a global stage.
GDP per Capita (Nominal)
Now, let’s take a look at the same map, constructed in order of GDP per capita:
This animation is more cohesive, given that it is not dependent on population size. Instead the order here is based on economic output (in nominal terms) of the average person in each country or jurisdiction.
In this case, developing nations appear first – and at the end, more developed regions (like Europe and North America) tend to fill out.
Note: All rankings here are in nominal terms, which use market rates to calculate comparable values in U.S. dollars, while omitting the cost of living as a factor. GDP rankings change significantly when using PPP rates.
Other Ways to Assemble the World
While assembling nations based on GDP provides an interesting way to look at the world, this same approach can be tried by applying other statistics as well.
We recommend checking out this page, which allows you to “assemble the world” based on measures like population density, life expectancy, or population.
Visualizing Africa’s Free Trade Ambitions
The Gambia recently became the latest country to ratify the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), helping the landmark agreement reach critical mass to move forward.
Visualizing Africa’s Free Trade Ambitions
A united African continent working towards common goals would be a major force on the global economic stage.
To this end, nations in the region have been working towards an ambitious plan to create the world’s largest trade area. The Gambia recently became the latest country to ratify the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), helping the agreement reach critical mass to move forward.
Today’s graphic helps put the region – and the status of AfCFTA – into perspective.
The Patchwork Problem
One key to unlocking the region’s economic potential is making it easier for Africa’s 55 countries to trade with one another.
Currently, Africa is a patchwork of regulations and tariffs, and trade between countries has suffered as a result. For example, only 10% of Nigeria’s annual trade activity is with other African countries. This is a surprising given the country’s dominant economic standing and location firmly in the center of the continent.
As a whole, Africa’s intra-continental trade level hovers at just around 20%, while nations in Europe and Asia are at 69% and 59%, respectively. Clearly, there is a lot of room for growth.
What is AfCFTA?
AfCFTA is the biggest free trade agreement since the establishment of the World Trade Organization.
The objective of the agreement is to create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business people and investments.
Last year, 44 African leaders signed an agreement to ratify AfCFTA, with half that number needed to move the agreement forward. Earlier this week, The Gambia was the 22nd country to announce that its government has ratified the agreement, meeting the threshold to officially put the wheels in motion.
We have witnessed a historic moment for the African Continent. AfCFTA is now set to become operational within
the month, creating a single continental market for goods
– Mark-Anthony Johnson, CEO, JIC Holdings
The good news for the agreement is that many of Africa’s largest economies – including Egypt and South Africa – are already on board. There is, however, one significant holdout.
The Elephant in the Room
Even though the threshold for pushing AfCFTA forward has been reached, Nigeria’s lack of commitment is still a major blow to the strength and credibility of the agreement.
Nigeria’s situation is complicated. The country’s economic prospects are bright, and Lagos is on a trajectory to become the world’s largest city over the next few decades. On the other hand, there is fierce opposition from labor unions, and the country is home to largest concentration of people living in extreme poverty in the world.
[AfCFTA is] an extremely dangerous and radioactive
neo-liberal policy initiative.
– Ayuba Wabba, President of NLC, Nigeria’s largest labor union
While the majority of African nations appear to be on board with the plan to enact AfCFTA, it remains to be seen whether Nigeria comes along for the ride or decides to go it alone.
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