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A Historical Divide: A 160-Year View of the Gold-Oil Ratio

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The Briefing

  • The divergence had gold trading at nearly 91 times oil in April.
  • The price relationship between gold and oil is at levels not witnessed in 160 years.

A 160 Year View of the Gold-Oil Ratio

2020 has ushered in a new era of prices for two historically significant assets—gold and oil.

The market has driven the pair in polar opposite directions breaking historical patterns. This year, gold brushed above $2,000 an ounce, while oil futures even went temporarily negative in the spring. The gold-oil ratio tells us how many barrels of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) are needed to buy an ounce of gold, serving as a price-based indicator of the relative value of these two important assets.

Historically, the ratio has averaged between 10:1 and 30:1, This year it brushed above 90:1.

Here’s a look at the price of gold and oil over the last 6 months:

MonthGold-Oil RatioGold $ per OzOil $ per Barrel (WTI)
April 202091.12$1,716.75$18.84
May 202048.62$1,725.65$35.49
June 202045.09$1,770.70$39.27
July 202048.96$1,971.68$40.27
August 202046.25$1,970.50$42.61
September 202047.09$1,893.90$40.22
October 2020 52.53$1,879.90$35.79

The Gold Story

Traditional investing mantra tells us gold acts as an alternative investment, a haven if you will, that appreciates in price during tumultuous economic and financial times.

Its limited quantity and physical storage properties serve as a hedge to much of modern finance that is increasingly digital.

The COVID-19 pandemic, a subsequent slowdown in economic activity, and the debt-driven stimulus packages by governments globally are all factors in the recent gold rally.

The Oil Story

At the other end are the oil markets, which face both long and short-term headwinds. Long-term demand for oil has dwindled gradually as societies buff up their alternative and green energy initiatives.

Shrinking activity during the pandemic was the short-term shock. Combined, the outcomes include oil futures going negative in spring, Chevron reporting a net income loss of $8.3 billion in the second quarter, and Exxon’s dumping from The Dow.

As markets adapt to the volatile nature of 2020, only time will tell what the future holds for the gold-oil ratio.

Where does this data come from?

  • Source: Goehring & Rozencwajg: Top Reasons to Consider Oil-Related Equities report and MacroTrends
  • Notes: Data is as of October 2020.

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Datastream

1.6 Billion Disposable Masks Entered Our Oceans in 2020

1.6 billion face masks entered our oceans in 2020, representing 5,500 tons of plastic pollution.

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The Briefing

  • 52 billion disposable face masks were produced in 2020 (this includes N95 respirators and surgical masks)
  • It’s estimated that 1.6 billion of these masks ended up in our oceans
  • This equates to roughly 5,500 tons of plastic pollution

Demand for Disposable Masks Skyrockets in 2020

Following the World Health Organization’s formal declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic, governments around the world quickly mandated the use of face masks in public spaces.

This led to a massive demand shock, prompting factories to begin producing disposable masks at full capacity. The majority of these masks were produced in China, and in April 2020, the country reported a staggering daily production figure of 450 million masks.

Plastic Pollution: A Lesser Known Side Effect

In Ocean Asia’s 2020 report, Masks on the Beach, researchers developed a formula to provide reasonable estimates for the number of disposable masks entering the environment.

Given an annual production figure of 52 billion disposable masks and a loss rate of 3% (the percentage of masks that escape water management systems), the team concluded that nearly 1.6 billion face masks wound up in our oceans in 2020. This amounts to approximately 5,500 tons of plastic pollution.

These masks are commonly made of polypropylene, which easily breaks up into microplastics. While the effects of microplastics on human health are not yet determined, these fragments are incredibly common in our water supply—for example, 94% of U.S. tap water is deemed to be contaminated.

Disposable Doesn’t Mean They’re Gone

Despite their single-use nature, disposable masks are expected to take more than four centuries to decompose while in the ocean. Here’s how this compares to other items we use on a day-to-day basis.

ItemYears Needed to Biodegrade
Disposable masks450
Disposable diaper450
Plastic bottle450
Aluminum can200
Styrofoam cup50
Plastic grocery bag20
Cigarette butt10

The pandemic has extended well into 2021, and the number of disposable masks polluting our oceans is likely to continue growing.

With this in mind, various companies and organizations are beginning to search for a solution. One noteworthy example is Plaxtil, which is developing a method for recycling surgical masks so that the raw materials can be used for other products.

»Like this? Then you might enjoy this infographic on the flow of plastic waste.

Where does this data come from?

Source: Oceans Asia, Statista, Plastic Collectors

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Datastream

Olympics 2021: Comparing Every Sports Ball

Here are the different sizes and weights of each Olympic sports ball used in the Tokyo Olympics.

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Olympics 2021 Comparing Every Sports Ball Preview

The Briefing

  • Table tennis has the smallest sports ball used in the Tokyo Olympics at just 4cm in diameter and 2.7g in weight.
  • The biggest by size is the basketball at 24.35cm in diameter, but the shot is more than 10 times heavier at 7.26kg.

Olympics 2021: Comparing Every Sports Ball

It might be strange having the Olympics in 2021 (an odd year), but 2020 was anything but normal.

After facing a 12-month delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo are set to kick off from July 23 to August 8.

In addition to hosting traditional sports like running and aquatics, some sports are being introduced for the first time (karate, skateboarding) or returning after an absence (baseball).

One thing that many Olympic sports share in common? There are 17 different sports that use balls or spheres of some sort, ranging in size and weight. Here are the different balls used in the Tokyo Olympics.

Olympic Sports Balls by Size and Weight

The 2021 Olympics, which are still officially called the 2020 Olympics to keep the four-year cycle and branding consistent, are hosting 339 events across 33 different sports.

17 of those sports use balls or spheres. The official sizes and weights vary from a small diameter of 4cm for table tennis to the largest ball, a basketball with a diameter of 24.35cm.

SportDiameterWeight
Table Tennis4.00cm2.7g
Golf4.27cm45.93g
Tennis6.70cm57.7g
Field Hockey7.48cm163g
Baseball7.50cm149g
Softball9.55cm177g
Shot Put12.00cm7,260g
Handball (Women’s)17.51cm350g
Handball (Men’s)18.78cm450g
Rhythmic Gymnastics19.00cm400g
Volleyball21.01cm270g
Water Polo (Women’s)21.01cm425g
Beach Volleyball21.33cm270g
Soccer21.96cm432.5g
Water Polo (Men’s)22.28cm425g
Basketball (Women’s)23.24cm538g
Basketball (Men’s)24.35cm608g

Even within the same categories of sports, balls have different size and weight rules based on event or gender. Water polo, handball, and basketball all have slight variations of a few centimeters in diameter and up to 100g in weight for different gender events.

But sorting the balls by weight shows that the shot is far and away the heaviest. At 7.26kg, the shot is more than 10 times heavier than a basketball. That’s because while most sporting balls are made of light material filled with air, shots are typically constructed entirely of metal.

Where does this data come from?

Source: Wired, Official Sport Rulebooks.

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