The Impartial Bean
Using the price of a coffee to estimate currency value
The Chart of the Week is a weekly Visual Capitalist feature on Fridays.
Like any other market, there are many opinions on what a currency ought to be worth relative to others.
With certain currencies, that spectrum of opinions is fairly narrow. As an example, for the world’s most traded currency – the U.S. dollar – the majority of opinions currently fall in a range from the dollar being 2% to 11% overvalued, according to organizations such as the Council of Foreign Relations, the Bank of International Settlements, the OECD, and the IMF.
For other currencies, the spectrum is much wider. The Swiss franc, which some have called the world’s most perplexing currency, has estimates from those same groups ranging from about 13% undervalued to 21% overvalued.
Such a variance in estimates makes it hard to come up with any conclusive consensus – so in today’s chart, we refer to a more caffeinated and fun measure that also approximates the relative value of currencies.
The Impartial Bean
The “Latte Index”, developed by The Wall Street Journal, uses purchasing-power parity (PPP) – comparing the cost of the same good in different countries – to estimate which currencies are overvalued and undervalued.
In this case, the WSJ tracked down the price of a tall Starbucks latte in dozens of cities around the world. These prices are then converted to U.S. dollars and compared to the benchmark price, which is a tall Starbucks latte in New York City (US$3.45).
The Latte Index is mostly for fun, but it’s also broadly in line with predictions made by the experts.
For example, the price of a latte in Toronto, Canada works out to US$2.94, which is about 14.8% under the benchmark NYC price. This suggests that relative to the USD, the Canadian dollar is undervalued. Interestingly, estimates from the aforementioned sources (BIS, OECD, CFR, IMF) have the Canadian dollar at being up to 10% undervalued – which puts the Latte Index not too far off.
Given the wild range of estimates that exist for currency values, using the relative cost of a cup of joe might be as good of a proxy as any.
The Best and Worst Performing Wealth Markets in the Last 10 Years
This telling chart shows how national wealth markets have changed over the past decade, highlighting the biggest winners and losers.
The Best and Worst Performing Wealth Markets
A lot can change in a decade.
Ten years ago, the collapse of Lehman Brothers sent the world’s financial markets into a tailspin, a catalyst for years of economic uncertainty.
At the same time, China’s robust GDP growth was reaching a fever pitch. The country was turning into a wealth creation machine, creating millions of newly-minted millionaires who would end up having a huge impact on wealth markets around the world.
The Ups and Downs of Wealth Markets (2008-2018)
Today’s graphic, using data from the Global Wealth Migration Review, looks at national wealth markets, and how they’ve changed since 2008.
Each wealth market is calculated from the sum of individual assets within the jurisdiction, accounting for the value of cash, property, equity, and business interests owned by people in the country. Just like other kinds of markets, wealth can grow or shrink over time.
Here are a few countries and regions that stand out in the report:
Developing Asian Economies
In terms of sheer wealth growth, nothing comes close to countries like China and India. The size of these markets, combined with rapid economic growth, have resulted in triple-digit gains over the last 10 years.
For the world’s two most populous countries, it’s a trend that is expected to continue into the next decade, despite the fact that many millionaire residents are migrating to different jurisdictions.
European nations saw very little growth over the past decade, but the Mediterranean region was particularly hard-hit. In fact, eight of the 20 worst performing wealth markets over the last decade are located along the Mediterranean coast:
|Rank (Out of 90)||Country||% Growth (2008-2018)|
European Bright Spots
There were some bright spots in Europe during this same time period. Malta, Ireland, and Monaco all achieved positive wealth growth at rates higher than 30% over the last 10 years.
While it’s expected to see rapidly-growing economies as prolific producers of wealth, it is much more surprising when mature markets perform so strongly. Singapore and New Zealand fall under that category, as does Australia, which was already a large, mature wealth market.
Australia recently surpassed both Canada and France to become the seventh largest wealth market in the world, and last year alone, over 12,000 millionaires migrated there.
The long-term economic slide of Venezuela has been well documented, and it comes as no surprise that the country saw extreme contraction of wealth over the last decade. Since war-torn countries are not included in the report, Venezuela ranked 90th, which is dead-last on a global basis.
Short Term, Long Term
In 2018, global wealth actually slumped by 5%, dropping from $215 trillion to $204 trillion.
All 90 countries tracked by the report experienced negative growth in wealth, as global stock and property markets dipped. Here’s a look at the wealth markets that were the hardest hit over the past year:
|Wealth Market||Wealth growth (2017 -2018)|
The future outlook is rosier. Global wealth is expected to rise by 43% over the next decade, reaching $291 trillion by 2028. If current trends play out as expected, Vietnam could likely top this list a decade from now with a staggering 200% growth rate.
Mapping the World’s Busiest Air Routes
Flying can get you almost anywhere, but often people are journeying between two popular destinations. Here we map the busiest air routes globally.
Mapping the World’s Busiest Air Routes
Modern air travel gives us almost unlimited possibilities for getting around.
Whether you are acting on your wanderlust to explore new and exotic destinations, hopping to a familiar island for a well-deserved vacation, or jetsetting to London in the comfort of business class, the modern airline industry can get you almost anywhere you need to go.
But while flying allows us to have unique experiences, it’s often the case that we are all coming and going from many of the same popular destinations. As a result, the world’s busiest air routes have hundreds of flights per day connecting important city pairs together.
Ranking City Pairs
Today’s chart pulls data from OAG, which has compiled a detailed report ranking the busiest domestic and international air routes from around the globe.
It’s worth noting that the data is over the period of March 2018 to February 2019, and it excludes carriers that operate fewer than 500 routes per year.
Let’s dive in to see which city pairs have the most air travel between them.
Domestic routes are far more popular than international routes globally. According to the report, there are 15 domestic routes that have more operating flights per year than any international route anywhere.
Here’s a look at the top 10 domestic routes:
|Rank||Country||City Pair||Flights (Annually)||Carriers|
|#1||🇰🇷||Jeju ↔️ Seoul||79,460||7|
|#2||🇦🇺||Melbourne ↔️ Sydney||54,102||4|
|#3||🇮🇳||Mumbai ↔️ Delhi||45,188||6|
|#4||🇧🇷||São Paulo ↔️ Rio de Janeiro||39,747||3|
|#5||🇯🇵||Fukuoka ↔️ Toyko||39,406||4|
|#6||🇻🇳||Hanoi ↔️ Ho Chi Minh City||39,291||3|
|#7||🇯🇵||Hokkaido ↔️ Tokyo||39,271||4|
|#8||🇮🇩||Jakarta ↔️ Surabaya City||37,762||6|
|#9||🇺🇸||Los Angeles ↔️ San Francisco||35,365||5|
|#10||🇸🇦||Jeddah ↔️ Riyadh||35,149||5|
The busiest domestic route might be a surprise, unless you are familiar with Asian geography.
With almost 80,000 annual flights, the 300-mile hop between Seoul and Jeju Island in South Korea is the busiest air route in the world by a large margin. Overall, there are seven carriers competing on it each day, with over 200 daily flights available between them.
What makes Jeju so popular?
Known as the “Hawaii of South Korea”, this volcanic island is an extremely popular vacation destination within the country, and it hosts roughly 15 million guests per year.
On an international basis, the busiest route has almost 50,000 fewer flights per year than the Jeju-Seoul city pair listed above. Not surprisingly, this route – and many other top international routes – are also located in the Asia Pacific region.
|Rank||Countries||City Pair||Flights (Annually)||Carriers|
|#1||🇲🇾🇸🇬||Kuala Lumpur ↔️ Singapore||30,187||8|
|#2||🇭🇰🇹🇼||Hong Kong ↔️ Taipei||28,447||5|
|#3||🇮🇩🇸🇬||Jakarta ↔️ Singapore||27,046||7|
|#4||🇭🇰🇨🇳||Hong Kong ↔️ Shanghai||20,678||5|
|#5||🇮🇩🇲🇾||Jakarta ↔️ Kuala Lumpur||19,741||8|
|#6||🇰🇷🇯🇵||Seoul ↔️ Osaka||19,711||8|
|#7||🇺🇸🇨🇦||New York (LGA) ↔️ Toronto||17,038||3|
|#8||🇭🇰🇰🇷||Hong Kong ↔️ Seoul||15,770||9|
|#9||🇹🇭🇸🇬||Bangkok ↔️ Singapore||14,698||5|
|#10||🇦🇪🇰🇼||Dubai ↔️ Kuwait||14,581||4|
The short hop between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur takes only one hour, and it connects two major Southeast Asian commercial hubs. The route has 41 flights per day between eight airlines, making it one of the most competitive routes globally.
The busiest international route outside of the Asia Pacific is between Toronto and New York (LaGuardia) with 17,038 annual flights. Interestingly, it only has three competing carriers – the lowest of any of the top 10 routes.
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