IMF Growth Forecasts: Missing the Mark So Far [Chart]
Will next week’s report be on target after 5 years of downward revisions?
The Chart of the Week is a weekly Visual Capitalist feature on Fridays.
Projections on the global economic recovery have been overestimated by most policymakers and institutions for some time now. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has been no exception to this fallacy.
Whether it is simple error, wishful thinking, or a complex system that is to blame, the economists at the IMF have now missed the mark for five years in a row on their global real GDP growth forecasts. After multiple revisions downward, their most recent January 2016 report finally estimated growth for this year to be a mediocre 3.4%.
Of course, no one expects economists to be anywhere near perfect. However, what is troubling in this instance is that all estimates have erred on the side of being overly optimistic. This makes it difficult for investors, businesses, and governments to ground their expectations and to manage their assets.
This upcoming week, the IMF will release their latest World Economic Outlook (WEO) report, summarizing key economic figures as well as their forecasted growth for 2016 and the years ahead.
Will they miss the mark again, or will their projections finally line up with economic realities?
In recent weeks, IMF head Christine Lagarde has hit the press circuit to possibly set expectations ahead of the new report’s release. In Frankfurt, she had this to say on April 5, potentially revealing some clues for us:
Overall, the global outlook has weakened further over the last six months — exacerbated by China’s relative slowdown, lower commodity prices, and the prospect of financial tightening for many countries. Emerging markets had largely driven the recovery and the expectation was that the advanced economies would pick up the ‘growth baton’ – That has not happened.
She went on to suggest that a strong U.S. dollar, high unemployment and shoddy balance sheets in Europe, and economic data from Japan have all reduced growth in key developed countries. Further, emerging markets such as China, Brazil, and Russia had all faced more challenges than expected, and that the Middle East’s growth got hammered by weak energy prices.
Meanwhile, Lagarde saw India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam as bright spots.
Later in the speech, she pulled no punches on potential global risks, mentioning “high debt” as the first risk to making recovery progress:
For advanced economies, [risks] relate to longstanding crisis legacies — high debt, low inflation, low investment, low productivity, and, for some, high unemployment.
While Lagarde made it clear that there has been a “loss of momentum” and that the IMF is “on alert, not alarm”, this could be a clue that the reality is setting in for the IMF: a sustained, real recovery is not in the cards unless giant obstacles are overcome. We believe this could take a prolonged time to truly correct, or that it could eventually happen after a major reset to our financial and political systems.
Either way, for once it seems possible (though improbable), that the IMF may finally see things the same way.
Visualizing The World’s Largest Sovereign Wealth Funds
To date, only two countries have sovereign wealth funds worth over $1 trillion. Learn more about them in this infographic.
Visualized: The World’s Largest Sovereign Wealth Funds
Did you know that some of the world’s largest investment funds are owned by national governments?
Known as sovereign wealth funds (SWF), these vehicles are often established with seed money that is generated by government-owned industries. If managed responsibly and given a long enough timeframe, an SWF can accumulate an enormous amount of assets.
In this infographic, we’ve detailed the world’s 10 largest SWFs, along with the largest mutual fund and ETF for context.
The Big Picture
Data collected from SWFI in October 2021 ranks Norway’s Government Pension Fund Global (also known as the Norwegian Oil Fund) as the world’s largest SWF.
The world’s 10 largest sovereign wealth funds (with fund size benchmarks) are listed below:
|Country||Fund Name||Fund Type||Assets Under Management (AUM)|
|🇳🇴 Norway||Government Pension Fund Global||SWF||$1.3 trillion|
|🇺🇸 U.S.||Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund||Mutual fund||$1.3 trillion|
|🇨🇳 China||China Investment Corporation||SWF||$1.2 trillion|
|🇰🇼 Kuwait||Kuwait Investment Authority||SWF||$693 billion|
|🇦🇪 United Arab Emirates||Abu Dhabi Investment Authority||SWF||$649 billion|
|🇭🇰 Hong Kong SAR||Hong Kong Monetary Authority Investment Portfolio||SWF||$581 billion|
|🇸🇬 Singapore||Government of Singapore Investment Corporation||SWF||$545 billion|
|🇸🇬 Singapore||Temasek||SWF||$484 billion|
|🇨🇳 China||National Council for Social Security Fund||SWF||$447 billion|
|🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia||Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia||SWF||$430 billion|
|🇺🇸 U.S.||State Street SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust||ETF||$391 billion|
|🇦🇪 United Arab Emirates||Investment Corporation of Dubai||SWF||$302 billion|
SWF AUM gathered on 10/08/2021. VTSAX and SPY AUM as of 09/30/2021.
So far, just two SWFs have surpassed the $1 trillion milestone. To put this in perspective, consider that the world’s largest mutual fund, the Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund (VTSAX), is a similar size, investing in U.S. large-, mid-, and small-cap equities.
The Trillion Dollar Club
The world’s two largest sovereign wealth funds have a combined $2.5 trillion in assets. Here’s a closer look at their underlying portfolios.
1. Government Pension Fund Global – $1.3 Trillion (Norway)
Norway’s SWF was established after the country discovered oil in the North Sea. The fund invests the revenue coming from this sector to safeguard the future of the national economy. Here’s a breakdown of its investments.
|Asset Class||% of Total Assets||Country Diversification||Number of Securities|
|Public Equities||72.8%||69 countries||9,123 companies|
|Fixed income||24.7%||45 countries||1,245 bonds|
|Real estate||2.5%||14 countries||867 properties|
As of 12/31/2020
Real estate may be a small part of the portfolio, but it’s an important component for diversification (real estate is less correlated to the stock market) and generating income. Here are some U.S. office towers that the fund has an ownership stake in.
|601 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY||45.0%|
|475 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY||49.9%|
|33 Arch Street, Boston, MA||49.9%|
|100 First Street, San Francisco, CA||44.0%|
As of 12/31/2020
Overall, the fund has investments in 462 properties in the U.S. for a total value of $14.9 billion.
2. China Investment Corporation (CIC) – $1.2 Trillion (China)
The CIC is the largest of several Chinese SWFs, and was established to diversify the country’s foreign exchange holdings.
Compared to the Norwegian fund, the CIC invests in a greater variety of alternatives. This includes real estate, of course, but also private equity, private credit, and hedge funds.
|Asset Class||% of Total Assets|
As of 12/31/2020
A primary focus of the CIC has been to increase its exposure to American infrastructure and manufacturing. By the end of 2020, 57% of the fund was invested in the United States.
“According to our estimate, the United States needs at least $8 trillion in infrastructure investments. There’s not sufficient capital from the U.S. government or private sector. It has to rely on foreign investments.”
– Ding Xuedong, Chairman, China Investment Corporation
This has drawn suspicion from U.S. regulators given the geopolitical tensions between the two countries. For further reading on the topic, consider this 2017 paper by the United States-China Economic and Security Review Commission.
Preparing for a Future Without Oil
Many of the countries associated with these SWFs are known for their robust fossil fuel industries. This includes Middle Eastern nations like Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
Oil has been an incredible source of wealth for these countries, but it’s unlikely to last forever. Some analysts believe that we could even see peak oil demand before 2030—though this doesn’t mean that oil will stop being an important resource.
Regardless, oil-producing countries are looking to hedge their reliance on fossil fuels. Their SWFs play an important role by taking oil revenue and investing it to generate returns and/or bolster other sectors of the economy.
An example of this is Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), which supports the country’s Vision 2030 framework by investing in clean energy and other promising sectors.
Visualizing the Race for EV Dominance
Tesla was the first automaker to hit a $1 trillion market cap, but other electric car companies have plans to unseat the dominant EV maker.
Electric Car Companies: Eating Tesla’s Dust
Tesla has reigned supreme among electric car companies, ever since it first released the Roadster back in 2008.
The California-based company headed by Elon Musk ended 2020 with 23% of the EV market and recently became the first automaker to hit a $1 trillion market capitalization. However, competitors like Volkswagen hope to accelerate their own EV efforts to unseat Musk’s company as the dominant manufacturer.
This graphic based on data from EV Volumes compares Tesla and other top carmakers’ positions today—from an all-electric perspective—and gives market share projections for 2025.
Auto Majors Playing Catch-up
According to Wood Mackenzie, Volkswagen will become the largest manufacturer of EVs before 2030. In order to achieve this, the world’s second-biggest carmaker is in talks with suppliers to secure direct access to the raw materials for batteries.
It also plans to build six battery factories in Europe by 2030 and to invest globally in charging stations. Still, according to EV Volumes projections, by 2025 the German company is forecasted to have only 12% of the market versus Tesla’s 21%.
|Company||Sales 2020||Sales 2025 (projections)||Market cap (Oct '21, USD)|
|SGMW (GM, Wulling Motors, SAIC)||211,000||1,100,000||$89B|
Other auto giants are following the same track towards EV adoption.
GM, the largest U.S. automaker, wants to stop selling fuel-burning cars by 2035. The company is making a big push into pure electric vehicles, with more than 30 new models expected by 2025.
Meanwhile, Ford expects 40% of its vehicles sold to be electric by the year 2030. The American carmaker has laid out plans to invest tens of billions of dollars in electric and autonomous vehicle efforts in the coming years.
Tesla’s Brand: A Secret Weapon
When it comes to electric car company brand awareness in the marketplace, Tesla still surpasses all others. In fact, more than one-fourth of shoppers who are considering an EV said Tesla is their top choice.
“They’ve done a wonderful job at presenting themselves as the innovative leader of electric vehicles and therefore, this is translating high awareness among consumers…”
—Rachelle Petusky, Research at Cox Automotive Mobility Group
Tesla recently surpassed Audi as the fourth-largest luxury car brand in the United States in 2020. It is now just behind BMW, Lexus, and Mercedes-Benz.
The Dominance of Electric Car Companies by 2040
BloombergNEF expects annual passenger EV sales to reach 13 million in 2025, 28 million in 2030, and 48 million by 2040, outselling gasoline and diesel models (42 million).
As the EV market continues to grow globally, competitors hope to take a run at Tesla’s lead—or at least stay in the race.
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