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

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gold-oil ratio

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

Charted: Money Can Buy Happiness After All

We’ve heard that money can only buy happiness up to a certain point. But a new study suggests cut-off may be a lot higher than we thought.

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The Briefing

  • Previous research has indicated that money stops buying happiness after $75,000/year
  • However, new research finds a strong correlation between income and happiness, trending upwards even after $80,000/year

In One Chart: Money Can Buy Happiness After All

What’s the relationship between money and happiness? Previous studies have indicated that, while money can in fact buy happiness, it plateaus at approximately $75,000/year.

However, new research suggests otherwise.

Using over a million real-time reports from a large U.S. sample group, a recent study found that happiness increases linearly with reported income (logarithmic), and continues to rise beyond the $80,000/year mark.

Below, we’ll provide more details on the research methodology, while touching on a few possible reasons why higher incomes may improve people’s happiness levels.

How is Happiness Measured?

Past research on happiness relative to income has relied on retrospective data, which leaves room for human memory errors. In contrast, this new study uses real-time, logged data from a mood tracking app, allowing for a more accurate representation of respondents’ experienced well-being.

Data was also collected by random prompts over a period of time, with dozens of entries logged for each single respondent. This provides a more well-rounded representation of a person’s overall well-being.

Two forms of well-being were measured in this study:

  • Experienced well-being
    A person’s mood and feeling throughout daily life.
  • Evaluative well-being:
    Someone’s perception of their life upon reflection.

Both forms of well-being increased with higher incomes, but evaluative well-being showed a more drastic split between the lower and higher income groups.

The Results (Measured in Standard Deviations from Mean)

Annual IncomeWell-Being (Experienced)Well-Being (Evaluative)
$15,000-0.21-0.34
$25,000-0.11-0.32
$35,000-0.09-0.19
$45,000-0.06-0.15
$55,000-0.05-0.07
$65,000-0.03-0.04
$75,000-0.01-0.02
$85,0000.010.03
$95,0000.030.01
$112,5000.040.08
$137,5000.060.17
$175,0000.080.17
$250,0000.170.24
$400,0000.190.35
$625,0000.150.38

Why Does Money Buy Happiness?

The report warns that any theories behind why happiness increases with income are purely speculative. However, it does list a few possibilities:

  • Increased comfort
    As someone earns more, they may have the ability to purchase things that reduce suffering. This is particularly true when comparing low to moderate income groups—larger incomes below $80,000/year still showed a strong association with reduced negative feelings.
  • More control
    Control seems to be tied to respondents’ happiness levels. In fact, having a sense of control accounted for 74% of the association between income and well-being.
  • Money matters
    Not all respondents cared about money. But for those who did, it had a significant impact on their perceived well-being. In general, lower income earners were happier if they didn’t value money, while higher income earners were happier if they thought money mattered.

Whatever the cause may be, one thing is clear—Biggie Smalls was wrong. Looks like more money doesn’t necessarily mean more problems.

»Like this? Then you might enjoy this article, Which Countries are the Most (and Least) Happy?

Where does this data come from?

Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Details: Participants were 33,391 employed adults living in the United States; median age was 33; median household income was $85,000/y (25th percentile = $45,000; 75th percentile = $137,500; mean = $106,548; SD = $95,393); 36% were male; and 37% were married

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Datastream

Visualizing Net Worth by Age in America

How much is the average American worth at different ages? This chart reveals the average net worth by age in the U.S.

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The Briefing

  • The age group with the highest average net worth in the U.S. is the 65-74 group, with $1.22 million in 2019 dollars.
  • There is a significant gap between median and mean (average) net worth in nearly every age category, suggesting that mean values are skewed upwards by outliers.

Visualizing Net Worth by Age in America

Calculating the net worth of individuals often seems like the kind of math reserved only for the richest people in the world like Elon Musk or Jack Ma. But as the proverbial pie gets bigger, the net worth of the average American household gets bigger as well.

This chart uses data from the U.S. Federal Reserve Bulletin to reveal median and average household net worth across different age categories in 2019.

Average vs. Median Net Worth

A person’s net worth is a sum of their assets and liabilities. Here’s a closer look at net worth by age in the U.S.

AgeMedian Net Worth 2019 Average Net Worth 2019 Difference
Younger than 35$13,900$76,300>5x
35-44$91,300$436,200>4.5x
45-54$168,600$833,200>4.5x
55-64$212,500$1,175,900>5.5x
65-74$266,400$1,217,700>4.5x
Older than 75$254,800$977,600>3.5x

The age group with the highest net worth is those aged 65-74, sitting at around $1.22 million. Coming in at a close second, are 55-64 year olds, at $1.18 million. However, these are the numbers using the average, while median net worth is quite different.

Median net worth at 65-74, for example, is $266,000, a difference of over $950,000 compared to the average. This reveals that there are likely high net worth individuals skewing the average towards over a million dollars in the same age category.

Both average and median net worth appear to increase throughout one’s life, trailing off slightly around the 75+ age range.

Trends in Net Worth

With the economic impacts of COVID-19, it’s possible that median net worth growth could taper off across nearly every age category, as people lose jobs, income, and assets such as houses.

Average net worth, on the other hand, may not drop as significantly, as a handful of American billionaires have actually increased their net worth during the pandemic.

Overall, wealth has been generally increasing in America with a consistent rise in average and median net worth occurring over the three years leading up to the pandemic. And while this steady increase has likely been slightly derailed, the general trends in asset ownership and income increases over time, bode well for Americans.

Where does this data come from?

Source: U.S. Federal Reserve Bulletin.
Details: Data is in 2019 U.S. dollars.

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