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Chart of the Week

Chart: Investing in the Finer Things in Life

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Chart: The Finer Investments in Life

The Finer Investments in Life

The Chart of the Week is a weekly Visual Capitalist feature on Fridays.

Outside of the mainstream world of stocks and bonds, there exists an interesting cross-section of alternative assets that only really gain appreciation from a relatively small group of elite investors.

These luxury collectibles – things like fine wine, classic cars, rare stamps, colored diamonds, Chinese ceramics, and fine art – are unquestionably fun to hold as investments and even to talk about. But do these alternative assets also perform as investments over time?

Eye of the Beholder

The obvious challenge with valuing an item like a prized Picasso painting is that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Investors can rely on expert opinions, their own experience, historical evidence, and longstanding markets for these asset classes. However, at the end of the day, the price an investor is willing to pay is ultimately subjective, which can get compounded by the fact that these markets also tend to be illiquid.

If you’re buying or selling one of these assets, this can either work in your favor – or you can be stuck with a classic car in your garage that never really panned out in terms of price.

Here is a graph showing the sale dates of some of the most expensive paintings:

Top painting sales and Salvator Mundi

Recently, you may remember the sale of Leonardo da Vinci’s re-discovered masterpiece, Salvator Mundi, as an event that topped headlines in late-2017. The painting was bought for $450 million by Abu Dhabi’s department of culture and tourism, and it’s to be displayed in the Abu Dhabi Louvre.

Investments that Age Well

Despite the challenges involved in valuing these assets, as well as other costs such as setting up the storage and security systems needed to protect them, time has been kind to many of these luxury assets.

Here are the returns of luxury items over the last decade, based on the 2018 Wealth Report by Knight Frank:

 Ten Year ReturnsCAGR
Autos334%15.8%
Fine Wine192%11.3%
Rare Coins182%10.9%
Jewelry138%9.1%
Rare Stamps103%7.4%
Fine Art78%5.9%
Colored Diamonds70%5.5%
Watches69%5.4%
Chinese Ceramics-3%-0.3%
Furniture-32%-3.8%

Keep in mind these investment categories are pretty narrow – for example, a Toyota Corolla doesn’t count towards the auto category. Instead, we’re talking about cars like the Lancia Aurelia B24 “Spider”, of which only 761 models were made in the 1950s.

In any case, as you can see from the above table, most of these assets have not only continued to hold their value, but they’ve also appreciated in price significantly. Autos topped the list, but fine wine and rare coins (two more accessible options for investors) also did quite well with 11.3% and 10.9% annual gains, respectively.

Correction: A previous version of the graphic showed an incorrect Jean-Michel Basquiat painting.

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Chart of the Week

Trump’s Relationship with the Price of Oil

What goes through the head of a U.S. president? The tweets of U.S. President Donald Trump reveal a contentious relationship with the price of oil and OPEC.

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Visualizing Trump’s Relationship with the Price of Oil

What goes through the head of a U.S. president?

That is a question that both voters and leaders alike would love to know the answer to. As it stands, scores of pundits and analysts already dissect everything from the choice of a tie, to whom a leader sits next to at a state dinner, to glean the potential direction of government policy.

Financial markets rely on the accurate interpretation of government policy to guide investment decisions. But what happens when you’re faced with a world leader who broadcasts his unfiltered thoughts instantaneously and globally? It’s sure to stir up international attention.

This week’s chart is inspired by work done by John Kemp, an energy reporter for Reuters. Kemp tracked all instances of U.S. President Donald Trump’s tweets mentioning oil and OPEC, against the shifting price of oil.

Where’s Your Head At?

U.S. President Donald Trump has actively worked to tie the success of his administration to the fortune of the economy and stock market.

If the economy does well, Trump hopes cheap gas at the pump will help translate into votes at the ballot box in 2020.

The key to keeping the economy growing is access to cheap energy, and oil is the critical commodity that’ll keep a fragile economy on the road. This is a line of thinking that can be seen throughout Trump’s tweets on the subject.

Tracking Trump’s Tweets

This week’s chart tracks President Donald Trump’s tweets from April 2018 to March 2019 that mention oil and OPEC.

Pre-Sanctions

The tweets start five months before the deadline of sanctions on Iran. During this timeframe, speculation that Trump would place sanctions on the oil-producing nation drove up the price with the prospect of a restricted supply of oil and increased tensions in the Middle East.

Despite the implications of U.S.-imposed sanctions, Trump squarely put the blame on OPEC for this period of rising oil prices. Tweets such as “OPEC is at it again. Not Good!” or “The OPEC monopoly must get price down now!” can be seen in this period.

Whether these tweets had any influence on oil producers is unclear, but they certainly outline a policy preference for cheap oil and a general animosity towards OPEC.

Post-Sanctions

On Nov. 4, 2018, Trump did impose sanctions but excluded Iranian oil exports, deflating a speculative bubble around the price of oil, and the president’s ire towards the region.

In the aftermath of sanctions, repeated news of record oil production and growing energy independence in the U.S. helped drive the price of oil back down. Though the president’s mood lightened, he still persisted in his accusations of OPEC manipulating the price.

Prices continued to fall, plummeting to nearly $50 per barrel by the end of 2018. Cheap oil is a direct threat to the profits of OPEC nations, but higher prices can create an array of challenges for the U.S. economy.

So despite a U.S. alliance with Saudi Arabia, this is a natural tension baked into the relationship.

So, what would a U.S. foreign policy look like without dependence on the Middle East?

Shifting Sands

The Middle East has had a considerable influence on U.S. foreign policy since the harsh lessons of 1970s energy crisis. Multiple wars of intervention to protect Saudi oil interests—and in turn, ensuring continued American access to oil—have ravished the region and led to a state of dysfunction and constant tension.

However, with the recent declaration of American energy independence, this relationship may change with a renewed prospect for peace. Trump may work to further undermine the power of OPEC to control oil prices, as well as the Middle East’s influence on U.S. foreign policy.

American energy independence is already challenging established relationships around the world. For example, Ukraine just recently accepted its first shipment of American oil in a move to counter Russia’s influence in the region.

A New Era

Diplomacy by Twitter has yet to prove to be an effective bridge in sustaining good international relations. That said, charting the tweets of world leaders is a unique way to interpret government policy and energy economics in this new era of social media.

It seems that the next time you want to know what is going through a leader’s head, you can simply try checking their tweets.

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Chart of the Week

Visualizing the Wealth of Nations

These 10 countries hold 74% of the world’s $204 trillion in private wealth. How will this wealth of nations change over the next decade?

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Visualizing the Wealth of Nations

Just as there exists a longstanding inequality in the distribution of household wealth, so exists a considerable differential in the amount of wealth held by countries on the international stage.

Simply put, some nations are “haves”, while many others are “have-nots”.

“Wherever there is great property, there is great inequality.”

– Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations

Ranking Riches

We previously showed you how the ranking of the richest countries in the world has changed over the course of the last 10 years (2008-2018).

Today’s chart keys on a slightly different question.

What are the wealthiest nations today, both in absolute and per capita terms, and how is this list projected to change over the next decade? Let’s see how the wealth of nations stack up.

Private Wealth: Now and in the Future

Using data from the Global Wealth Migration Review, here are the 10 wealthiest nations both now and as forecasted in 2028.

RankCountryWealth (2018)Wealth (2028F)Approx. Growth
#1🇺🇸 United States$60.7 trillion$72.8 trillion20%
#2🇨🇳 China$23.6 trillion$51.8 trillion120%
#3🇯🇵 Japan$19.1 trillion$24.9 trillion30%
#4🇮🇳 India$8.1 trillion$22.8 trillion180%
#5🇦🇺 Australia$6.0 trillion$10.8 trillion80%
#6🇬🇧 United Kingdom$9.1 trillion$10.0 trillion10%
#7🇩🇪 Germany$8.8 trillion$9.7 trillion10%
#8🇨🇦 Canada$6.0 trillion$7.8 trillion30%
#9🇫🇷 France$5.9 trillion$6.4 trillion10%
#10🇮🇹 Italy$3.8 trillion$4.2 trillion10%

It’s worth noting that these figures are meant to represent wealth, which is defined as the total amount of private wealth held by individuals in each country. It includes assets like property, cash, equities, and business interests, minus any liabilities.

China has been the best performing wealth market in the last decade, and these projections show the country as continuing on that track. In fact, both China and India are expected to see triple-digit growth in private wealth between now and 2028.

As far as developed countries go, it’s not surprising that growth rates are much more modest. In Europe, countries like Great Britain, Germany, France, and Italy are only expected to add 10% to private wealth in 10 years, while Canada (30%) and the U.S. (20%) do marginally better.

One notable exception here is Australia, which is expected to add 80% to private wealth over the timeframe – and it will leapfrog both Germany and the U.K. in the rankings in the process.

Wealth per Capita

Here’s a look at the wealth of nations in a different way, this time with numbers adjusted on a per capita basis.

RankCountryEst. PopulationWealth per capita (2018)
#1🇲🇨 Monaco38,695$2,114,000
#2🇱🇮 Liechtenstein37,810$786,000
#3🇨🇭 Switzerland8,420,000$315,000
#4🇱🇺 Luxembourg590,667$300,000
#5🇦🇺 Australia24,600,000$244,000
#6🇳🇴 Norway5,258,000$198,000
#7🇺🇸 United States327,200,000$186,000
#8🇸🇬 Singapore5,612,000$177,000
#9🇭🇰 Hong Kong7,392,000$169,000
#10🇨🇦 Canada36,540,000$163,000

When using per capita numbers, it’s absolutely no contest.

Monaco, the city-state on the French Riviera, is a money magnet with $2.1 million of private wealth per citizen. This means the average Monacan is at least 10 times richer than the average North American or European.

Liechtenstein, a microstate that sits in the Alps between Switzerland and Austria, also has a high average wealth of $786,000 per person. Like Monaco, its population is well under 50,000 people.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that three countries on the per capita list also made the overall list. Put another way, the countries of Australia, Canada, and the United States can all claim to be among the wealthiest of nations in both absolute and per capita terms.

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