Risk On, Risk Off
Few events can grasp the world’s attention in the same manner the pandemic and U.S. presidential election have. This attention also sparks conflict and discord—and thus, for some time, they’ve been identifiable risks as it pertains to financial markets.
The uncertainty that arises in relation to these two events is subsiding. The election is over and the roll out of vaccines has commenced.
For Wall Street and their forward looking estimates, greener pastures appear to be on the horizon. As a result, this has translated into record-breaking inflows into stock market funds near the end of 2020.
Stock Market Funds
In the week through November 11, 2020, $44.5 billion of stock market inflows were injected into markets through various funds—the largest weekly inflow into equity funds ever recorded.
The appetite for risk is also reflected in the options market, where call option volume is breaking all-time highs.
Taking a step back, here are the funds with the largest inflows in 2020:
|Ticker||Fund Name||2020 Net Inflows ($ Millions)|
|VTI||Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF||$32,623|
|VOO||Vanguard S&P 500 ETF||$21,431|
|BND||Vanguard Total Bond Market ETF||$17,217|
|QQQ||Invesco QQQ Trust||$16,733|
|VXUS||Vanguard Total International Stock ETF||$16,002|
|GLD||SPDR Gold Trust||$15,129|
|LQD||iShares iBoxx USD Investment Grade Corporate Bond ETF||$15,020|
|VCIT||Vanguard Intermediate-Term Corporate Bond ETF||$14,790|
|AGG||iShares Core U.S. Aggregate Bond ETF||$12,475|
|BNDX||Vanguard Total International Bond ETF||$11,929|
One Funds Inflow Is Another Funds Outflow
Gold and fixed income, which tend to thrive in times of uncertainty, saw net outflows during the same week. Fixed income in particular has fared worse. The spread between U.S. bond and U.S. stock ETFs is widening, with almost $3 trillion more dollars in stock funds.
As Wall Street re-evaluates for rosier forecasts ahead, this may further widen the growing gap between these respective assets. Despite a volatile year where markets whipsawed, the S&P 500 finished 2020 up 16%, a boost from its historical average of 10-11%.
Visualizing the Five Drivers of Forest Loss
Approximately 15 billion trees are cut down annually across the world. Here’s a look at the five major drivers of forest loss. (Sponsored)
Visualizing the Five Drivers of Forest Loss
The world has lost one-third of its forests since the ice age, and today, approximately 15 billion trees are cut down annually.
Forests are wellsprings of biodiversity and an essential buffer against climate change, absorbing billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions every year. Yet, forest loss continues to grow.
The above infographic sponsored by Carbon Streaming Corporation highlights the five primary drivers behind forest loss.
Deforestation vs. Degradation
‘Forest loss’ is a broad term that captures the impacts of both permanent deforestation and forest degradation. There is an important distinction between the two:
- Permanent deforestation: Refers to the complete removal of trees or conversion of forests to another land use (like buildings), where forests cannot regrow.
- Forest degradation: Refers to a reduction in the density of trees in the area without a change in land use. Forests are expected to regrow.
Forest degradation accounts for over 70% or 15 million hectares of annual forest loss. The other 30% of lost forests are permanently deforested.
|Driving factor||Category||Average annual forest loss (2001-2015, million hectares)|
|Commodity-driven deforestation||Permanent deforestation||5.7|
|Forestry products||Forest degradation||5.4|
|Shifting agriculture||Forest degradation||5|
Commodity-driven deforestation, which includes removal of forests for farming and mining, is the largest driver of forest loss. Agriculture alone accounts for three-fourths of all commodity-driven deforestation, where forests are often converted into land for cattle ranches and plantations.
The harvesting of forestry products like timber, paper, pulp, and rubber accounts for the largest share of forest loss from degradation. This process is often managed and planned so that forests can regrow after the harvest.
Shifting agriculture and wildfires each account for around 5 million hectares or one-fourth of annual forest loss. In both cases, forests can replenish if the land is left unused.
Urbanization—the conversion of forests into land for cities and infrastructure—is by far the smallest contributor, accounting for less than 1% of annual forest loss.
How Much Carbon Do Forests Absorb?
The world’s forests absorbed nearly twice as much carbon dioxide (CO2) as they emitted between 2001 and 2019, according to research published in Nature.
On a net basis, forests sequester 7.6 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent (CO2e) annually, which equates to around 15% of global CO2e emissions. As the impacts of climate change intensify, protecting forests from deforestation and degradation is increasingly critical.
Carbon Streaming Corporation accelerates climate action through carbon credit streams on REDD+ projects that protect the Earth’s forests. Click here to learn more now.
Ranked: Top 10 Foreign Policy Concerns of Americans
As the world’s superpower, the U.S. has major influence in world events. Which foreign policy concerns stand out for Americans?
In the United States, there is a distinct difference on top foreign policy concerns between Democrats and Republicans.
This chart uses data from Morning Consult to assess the top policy concerns of Americans.
The Top Concerns
Overall, the average American is most concerned about terrorism, immigration, and drug trafficking. Interestingly, this list corresponds with the concerns of the average Republican, though falling in a different order.
Meanwhile, Democrats are chiefly worried about climate change, another global pandemic, and terrorism.
Here’s a breakdown of the policy concerns at large and across political parties.
|Overall Rank with Americans||Foreign Policy Concern||Share of Voters Listing it as a Top Concern||Share of Democrats Listing it as a Top Concern||Share of Republicans Listing it as a Top Concern|
|#6||Preventing a global economic crisis||32%||33%||31%|
|#7||Securing critical supply chains||30%||27%||34%|
|#8||Preventing another global pandemic||30%||38%||22%|
|#9||Russia's invasion of Ukraine||27%||33%||21%|
|#10||Protecting human rights globally||25%||31%||18%|
|#13||Iran nuclear deal||21%||19%||24%|
|#14||Upholding democracy globally||15%||22%||8%|
Notably, the concern around U.S.-China relations ranks considerably low, as does preventing disinformation. Upholding democracy worldwide ranks extremely low with Republicans.
America’s Foreign Policy
Along party lines, the results are not surprising. Democrats skew towards multilateralism and want to engage with foreign bodies and other countries to tackle global issues. Republicans are generally more concerned with what’s happening at home.
Looking at the country as a whole and its relations with other nations, however, Americans lean more towards an America-first focus. According to Morning Consult, 39% of registered voters want to decrease U.S. involvement in other countries’ affairs, whereas 20% want to increase it; 30% want to keep the status quo.
Here’s a closer look at Americans’ desire to get involved in a variety of foreign policy initiatives:
|Issue||Increase Efforts||Decrease Efforts||Neither|
|Overseas Troop Deployment||21%||37%||30%|
|Trade and Tariffs||41%||15%||29%|
|Involvement with International Organizations||35%||21%||32%|
|Resolution of Military Disputes||38%||16%||33%|
|Resolution of Economic Disputes||43%||13%||31%|
As of October 2022
The U.S. Midterm Elections
With midterm elections underway, America’s foreign policy may not be the most important factor for voters. Pew Research Center found that in these congressional elections, foreign policy only ranked 12th among other key issues considered “very important” by registered voters.
The top five concerns of voters in these midterms are:
- The economy
- The future of democracy within the U.S.
- Energy policy
Regardless, the U.S. has a massive impact in foreign affairs and the results of the country’s midterm elections will likely cause a ripple effect globally. If Republicans win the House—which is looking extremely likely—and the Senate, President Biden’s foreign policy initiatives and priorities could be drastically restricted.
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