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Chart of the Week

Animated Maps: Fewer Americans Participating in Surging U.S. Markets

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

Over the course of the year, U.S. markets have hit new all-time highs on multiple occasions. The most recent iteration of this trend is the “Trump Rally”, which has the S&P 500 up 2.8% since Election Day.

Trump Rally in S&P 500

Fueled by expansionary monetary policy and the lowest interest rates in history, the bull market in U.S. equities is now the second-longest of all time. It’s hard to believe that almost eight years ago, the S&P 500 sat at a measly low of just 676.53 on March 9, 2009.

Rising Portfolios, Declining Participation

The stock market is proven to be the best way for investors to make returns over the long run, even through recessions and other catastrophic events.

This can be seen on the below map, showing portfolio value on a regional basis from 1989-2013:

Mean value of stocks held by families

This data, which comes from the Fed every three years, shows the mean value of stocks for families that have holdings in the market. The most recent national number is $294,300 for 2013, and we can safely assume that mean portfolio values are even higher today given the continuation of the bull market.

But does this mean that everyone has benefited from rising stock prices?

While the average value of stocks held by families has soared, there is an alarming countertrend: the percentage of families that actually own stocks has been shrinking since 2001:

Mean value of stocks held by families

One particularly interesting regional case is that of the Midwest. In the span of nine years (from 2004-2013) the percentage of families with stock ownership halved from 23.4% to 12.3%.

But this has also happened on a broader level.

The percentage of families nationwide with directly-owned stocks peaked at 21.3% in 2001 – and since then, the number has consistently declined all the way until 2013, when only 13.8% of families owned stocks.

What Does It Mean?

Despite steady market gains since 2009, fewer families are participating in the markets.

Is it that people don’t have enough disposable income anymore to invest? Or is this because families are still skeptical of the economy and market even years after the 2008 crisis?

Regardless of the reasons, stock market gains have gone predominantly to one group of people:

Mean value of stocks held by families

The 90-100% percentile income bracket – in other words, the people who make the most money – have had the value of their stocks triple in value since 1989.

A Slight Trend Reversal?

Though Fed numbers for this year won’t come out until late 2017, there is some evidence that stock ownership has started to increase again, even if it is just a tiny improvement. This recent Gallup poll shows 2014 and 2015 to have slightly higher numbers of people involved in the market, though it uses a different definition than the Federal Reserve for its figures.

So as the “Trump Rally” comes to a close, the question remains. Did enough Americans benefit from the most recent rise in stock prices, or did those returns go only to one group?

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Chart of the Week

The 10 Breakthrough Technologies That Will Define 2019

Which innovations will dominate headlines in 2019? According to Bill Gates, watch for these 10 breakthrough technologies to change the world.

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The 10 Breakthrough Technologies That Will Define 2019

Gone are the days of turning stones into spears. With the advent of new technologies, we’ve learned to develop tools that not only make living faster and easier every day, but also improve the future of humanity as a whole.

Today’s Chart of the Week draws from the MIT Technology Review, which features Bill Gates’ predictions for the top 10 breakthrough inventions that will capture headlines in 2019.

Top 10 Breakthrough Technologies

1. Gut Probe in a Pill
These swallowable devices can detect and potentially prevent diseases that cause malnutrition and stunted growth in millions of children worldwide.

2. Custom Cancer Vaccines
Personalized cancer vaccines, targeting only the cancerous cells and leave healthy cells alone, could help ensure faster recovery times and pose fewer risks to patients.

3. Meat-free Burgers
Plant-based and lab-grown food products will ideally alleviate the environmental impact of the livestock industry.

4. Smooth-talking AI assistants
The AI assistants of the future will have even more human-like conversations to personally engage customers. Companies would see measurable benefits, with just one breakthrough here garnering a 5% jump in productivity.

5. Sanitation without sewers
Improperly drained sewage causes death in one out of every nine children. Sanitation that doesn’t require sewers would not only prevent exposure diseases but also help turn waste into useful products like fertilizer.

6. ECG on your wrist
While most medical ECGS have up to 12 nodes to detect abnormalities, today’s wearables typically have only one. An ECG on the wrist would help reduce the risk of heart disease by monitoring changes and patterns in daily life.

7. Robot Dexterity
Advancements in robotics will enable the natural dexterity required to complete a greater range of tasks, such as helping an ailing loved one out of bed, doing the laundry, or building toys.

8. Predicting Preemies
Premature births are the leading cause of death for children under five years old. Tests to detect the possibility of a premature birth could be available in doctors’ offices in as little as five years.

9. Carbon Dioxide Catcher
Carbon dioxide catchers filter out CO₂ from the air and capture it for other uses. These include synthetic fuel creation, CO₂ for soft drinks, and plant growth in greenhouses.

10. New-wave Nuclear Power
Traditional nuclear reactors produce ~1,000 megawatts (MW), while these proposed mini-reactors would produce tens of megawatts ─ making them safer, more stable, and more financially viable for potential users.

A Vision for a Better Future

The biggest takeaway?

Seven of the 10 breakthrough technologies stem from the healthtech sector.

While several inventions on this list are years away from becoming a reality, they continue to embody the vision and passion that humans share to create and explore.

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How the Modern Consumer is Different

We all have a stereotypical image of the average consumer – but is it an accurate one? Meet the modern consumer, and what it means for business.

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How the Modern Consumer is Different

How the Modern Consumer is Different

There is a prevailing wisdom that says the stereotypical American consumer can be defined by certain characteristics.

Based on what popular culture tells us, as well as years of experiences and data, we all have an idea of what the average consumer might look for in a house, car, restaurant, or shopping center.

But as circumstances change, so do consumer tastes – and according to a recent report by Deloitte, the modern consumer is becoming increasingly distinct from those of years past. For us to truly understand how these changes will affect the marketplace and our investments, we need to rethink and update our image of the modern consumer.

A Changing Consumer Base

In their analysis, Deloitte leans heavily on big picture demographic and economic factors to help in summarizing the three major ways in which consumers are changing.

Here are three ways the new consumer is different than in years past:

1. Increasingly Diverse
In terms of ethnicity, the Baby Boomers are 75% white, while the Millennial generation is 56% white. This diversity also transfers to other areas as well, such as sexual and gender identities.

Not surprisingly, future generations are expected to be even more heterogeneous – Gen Z, for example, identifies as being 49% non-white.

2. Under Greater Financial Pressure
Today’s consumers are more educated than ever before, but it’s come at a stiff price. In fact, the cost of education has increased by 65% between 2007 and 2017, and this has translated to a record-setting $1.5 trillion in student loans on the books.

Other costs have mounted as well, leaving the bottom 80% of consumers with effectively no increase in discretionary income over the last decade. To make matters worse, if you single out just the bottom 40% of earners, they actually have less discretionary income to spend than they did back in 2007.

3. Delaying Key Life Milestones
Getting married, having children, and buying a house all have one major thing in common: they can be expensive.

The average person under 35 years old has a 34% lower net worth than they would have had in the 1990s, making it harder to tackle typical adult milestones. In fact, the average couple today is marrying eight years later than they did in 1965, while the U.S. birthrate is at its lowest point in three decades. Meanwhile, homeownership for those aged 24-32 has dropped by 9% since 2005.

A New Landscape for Business?

The modern consumer base is more diverse, but also must deal with increased financial pressures and a delayed start in achieving traditional milestones of adulthood. These demographic and economic factors ultimately have a ripple effect down to businesses and investors.

How do these big picture changes impact your business or investments?

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