Charted: The History of Interest Rates Over 670 Years
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The History of Interest Rates Over 670 Years

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History of Interest Rates

The History of Interest Rates Over 670 Years

Today, we live in a low-interest-rate environment, where the cost of borrowing for governments and institutions is lower than the historical average. It is easy to see that interest rates are at generational lows, but did you know that they are also at 670-year lows?

This week’s chart outlines the interest rates attached to loans dating back to the 1350s. Take a look at the diminishing history of the cost of debt—money has never been cheaper for governments to borrow than it is today.

The Birth of an Investing Class

Trade brought many good ideas to Europe, while helping spur the Renaissance and the development of the money economy.

Key European ports and trading nations, such as the Republic of Genoa or the Netherlands during the Renaissance period, help provide a good indication of the cost of borrowing in the early history of interest rates.

The Republic of Genoa: 4-5 year Lending Rate

Genoa became a junior associate of the Spanish Empire, with Genovese bankers financing many of the Spanish crown’s foreign endeavors.

Genovese bankers provided the Spanish royal family with credit and regular income. The Spanish crown also converted unreliable shipments of New World silver into capital for further ventures through bankers in Genoa.

Dutch Perpetual Bonds

A perpetual bond is a bond with no maturity date. Investors can treat this type of bond as an equity, not as debt. Issuers pay a coupon on perpetual bonds forever, and do not have to redeem the principal—much like the dividend from a blue-chip company.

By 1640, there was so much confidence in Holland’s public debt, that it made the refinancing of outstanding debt with a much lower interest rate of 5% possible.

Dutch provincial and municipal borrowers issued three types of debt:

  1. Promissory notes (Obligatiën): Short-term debt, in the form of bearer bonds, that was readily negotiable
  2. Redeemable bonds (Losrenten): Paid an annual interest to the holder, whose name appeared in a public-debt ledger until the loan was paid off
  3. Life annuities (Lijfrenten): Paid interest during the life of the buyer, where death cancels the principal

Unlike other countries where private bankers issued public debt, Holland dealt directly with prospective bondholders. They issued many bonds of small coupons that attracted small savers, like craftsmen and often women.

Rule Britannia: British Consols

In 1752, the British government converted all its outstanding debt into one bond, the Consolidated 3.5% Annuities, in order to reduce the interest rate it paid. Five years later, the annual interest rate on the stock dropped to 3%, adjusting the stock as Consolidated 3% Annuities.

The coupon rate remained at 3% until 1888, when the finance minister converted the Consolidated 3% Annuities, along with Reduced 3% Annuities (1752) and New 3% Annuities (1855), into a new bond─the 2.75% Consolidated Stock. The interest rate was further reduced to 2.5% in 1903.

Interest rates briefly went back up in 1927 when Winston Churchill issued a new government stock, the 4% Consols, as a partial refinancing of WWI war bonds.

American Ascendancy: The U.S. Treasury Notes

The United States Congress passed an act in 1870 authorizing three separate consol issues with redemption privileges after 10, 15, and 30 years. This was the beginning of what became known as Treasury Bills, the modern benchmark for interest rates.

The Great Inflation of the 1970s

In the 1970s, the global stock market was a mess. Over an 18-month period, the market lost 40% of its value. For close to a decade, few people wanted to invest in public markets. Economic growth was weak, resulting in double-digit unemployment rates.

The low interest policies of the Federal Reserve in the early ‘70s encouraged full employment, but also caused high inflation. Under new leadership, the central bank would later reverse its policies, raising interest rates to 20% in an effort to reset capitalism and encourage investment.

Looking Forward: Cheap Money

Since then, interest rates set by government debt have been rapidly declining, while the global economy has rapidly expanded. Further, financial crises have driven interest rates to just above zero in order to spur spending and investment.

It is clear that the arc of lending bends towards ever-decreasing interest rates, but how low can they go?

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Technology

Companies Going Public in 2021: Visualizing IPO Valuations

Tracking the companies that have gone public in 2021 so far, their valuation, and how they did it.

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Companies Going Public in 2021 08 Share

Companies Going Public in 2021: Visualizing Valuations

The beginning of the year has been a productive one for global markets, and companies going public in 2021 have benefited.

From much-hyped tech initial public offerings (IPOs) to food and healthcare services, many companies with already large followings have gone public this year. Some were supposed to go public in 2020 but got delayed due to the pandemic, and others saw the opportunity to take advantage of a strong current market.

This graphic measures 47 companies that have gone public just past the first half of 2021 (from January to July)— including IPOs, SPACs, and Direct Listings—as well as their subsequent valuations after listing.

Who’s Gone Public in 2021 So Far?

Historically, companies that wanted to go public employed one main method above others: the initial public offering (IPO).

But companies going public today readily choose from one of three different options, depending on market situations, associated costs, and shareholder preference:

  • Initial Public Offering (IPO): A private company creates new shares which are underwritten by a financial organization and sold to the public.
  • Special Purpose Acquisition Company (SPAC): A separate company with no operations is created strictly to raise capital to acquire the company going public. SPACs are the fastest method of going public, and have become popular in recent years.
  • Direct Listing: A private company enters a market with only existing, outstanding shares being traded and no new shares created. The cost is lower than that of an IPO, since no fees need to be paid for underwriting.

So far, the majority of companies going public in 2021 have chosen the IPO route, but some of the biggest valuations have resulted from direct listings.

Listing DateCompanyValuation ($B)Listing Type
08-Jan-21Clover Health$7.0SPAC
13-Jan-21Affirm$11.9IPO
13-Jan-21Billtrust$1.3SPAC
14-Jan-21Poshmark$3.0IPO
15-Jan-21Playtika$11.0IPO
21-Jan-21Hims and Hers Health$1.6SPAC
28-Jan-21Qualtrics$15.0IPO
09-Feb-21Metromile-SPAC
11-Feb-21Bumble$8.2IPO
26-Feb-21ChargePoint Holdings$0.45SPAC
03-Mar-21Oscar Health$7.9IPO
10-Mar-21Roblox$30.0Direct Listing
11-Mar-21Coupang$60.0IPO
23-Mar-21DigitalOcean$5.0IPO
25-Mar-21VIZIO$3.9IPO
26-Mar-21ThredUp$1.3IPO
31-Mar-21Coursera$4.3IPO
01-Apr-21Compass$8.0IPO
14-Apr-21Coinbase$86.0Direct Listing
15-Apr-21AppLovin$28.6IPO
21-Apr-21UiPath$35.0IPO
21-Apr-21DoubleVerify$4.2IPO
05-May-21The Honest Company$1.4IPO
07-May-21Lightning eMotors$0.82SPAC
07-May-21Blade Air Mobility$0.83SPAC
19-May-21Squarespace$7.4Direct Listing
19-May-21Procore$9.6IPO
19-May-21Oatly$10.0IPO
26-May-21ZipRecruiter$2.4IPO
26-May-21FIGS$4.4IPO
01-Jun-21SoFi$8.7SPAC
02-Jun-21BarkBox$1.6SPAC
08-Jun-21Marqueta$15.0IPO
10-Jun-21Monday.com$7.5IPO
16-Jun-21WalkMe$2.5IPO
22-Jun-21Sprinklr$3.7IPO
24-Jun-21Confluent$9.1IPO
29-Jun-21Clear$4.5IPO
30-Jun-21SentinelOne$10.0IPO
30-Jun-21LegalZoom$7.0IPO
30-Jun-21Didi Chuxing$73.0IPO
16-Jul-21Blend$4IPO
21-Jul-21Kaltura$1.24IPO
21-Jul-21DISCO$2.5IPO
21-Jul-21Couchbase$1.4IPO
23-Jul-21Vtex$3.5IPO
23-Jul-21Outbrain$1.1IPO

Though there are many well-known names in the list, one of the biggest through lines continues to be the importance of tech.

A majority of 2021’s newly public companies have been in tech, including multiple mobile apps, websites, and online services. The two biggest IPOs so far were South Korea’s Coupang, an online marketplace valued at $60 billion after going public, and China’s ride-hailing app Didi Chuxing, the year’s largest post-IPO valuation at $73 billion.

And there were many apps and services going public through other means as well. Gaming company Roblox went public through a direct listing, earning a valuation of $30 billion, and cryptocurrency platform Coinbase has earned the year’s largest valuation so far, with an $86 billion valuation following its direct listing.

Big Companies Going Public in Late 2021

As with every year, some of the biggest companies going public are lined up for the later half.

Tech will continue to be the talk of the markets. Payment processing firm Stripe is setting up to be the year’s biggest IPO with an estimated valuation of $95 billion, and now-notorious trading platform Robinhood is looking to go public with an estimated valuation of $12 billion.

But other big players are lined up to capture hot market sentiments as well.

Electric truck startup Rivian Automotive (backed by Amazon) is estimated to earn a public valuation around $70 billion, which would make it one of the world’s largest automakers by market cap. Likewise, online grocery delivery platform InstaCart, which saw a big upswing in traction due to the pandemic, is looking at an estimated valuation of at least $39 billion.

Of course, there’s always a chance that potential public listings and offerings fall through. Whether they get delayed due to weak market conditions or cancelled at the last minute, anything can happen when it comes to public markets.

This post will be periodically updated throughout the year.

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Financing

Which Country is the Cheapest for Starting a Business?

These maps show the most (and least) costly countries for starting a business by relative costs.

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Cost of Starting A Business By Country Share

Which Country is the Cheapest for Starting A Business?

Starting a new business isn’t as simple as coming up with an idea.

In addition to the time investment needed to formulate and create a business, there’s often a hefty capital requirement. A new business usually requires paying different fees for licensing, permits, and approvals, and many governments also have minimum on-hand capital requirements.

And costs are relative. Though it might be more costly to start a business in some countries on paper, affordability also takes into account relative income.

These graphics from BusinessFinancing.co.uk use data from the World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 report to examine the startup cost for a small-to-medium-size LLC in the largest business cities across 190 countries.

The Cost of Starting a Business in Different Countries

From a pure cost perspective, the affordability of starting a business is extremely dependent on where you are located.

Some countries make the cost of business extremely low to encourage more economic activity. Others have high or nearly inaccessible fees to protect existing businesses, or to simply cash in on the entrepreneurial spirit.

CountryCost (2020 USD)% of Monthly Income
Venezuela0-%
Rwanda0-%
Slovenia0-%
Kyrgyzstan80.1
Sudan80.13
Timor Leste100.09
Azerbaijan110.04
Kazakhstan120.02
Ukraine120.06
Egypt130.07
South Africa130.03
Mauritania140.12
Uzbekistan140.13
Chile160.02
United Kingdom170.01
Belarus180.04
Pakistan200.16
Croatia270.03
Sierra Leone290.81
Armenia300.1
Burundi301.77
Iran310.09
Benin320.38
Liberia320.87
Niger320.78
Afghanistan330.86
Georgia330.1
Mongolia370.17
Romania380.05
Botswana400.08
New Zealand430.02
South Korea470.02
Kosovo49-%
Angola540.63
Togo561.29
Indonesia740.3
Bulgaria750.11
Moldova760.24
Mozambique762.09
Russia770.11
Congo (Democratic Republic of the)802.39
Ireland860.02
Lesotho860.89
Mauritius860.1
Lithuania900.07
Tunisia930.42
Belize990.33
Bhutan1000.45
Madagascar1002.72
Laos1050.68
Montenegro1050.16
Denmark1100.02
Serbia1120.24
Trinidad and Tobago1150.1
Malawi1174.72
Morocco1200.52
Zambia1201.28
Cameroon1251.24
Ghana1251.03
Vietnam1280.73
Tajikistan1361.86
China1380.21
India1420.98
Bangladesh1491.11
Ethiopia1503.21
Honduras1520.85
Czech Republic1580.13
Uganda1633.67
Canada1650.05
Argentina1670.21
Eritrea1744.63
Kiribati1740.7
Estonia1760.11
Sri Lanka1760.56
Turkey1770.28
Myanmar1791.73
Nepal1862.43
Jamaica1890.48
Thailand2010.43
North Macedonia2020.52
Algeria2030.79
Comoros2041.9
Greece2040.14
Slovakia2090.17
Brazil2180.35
Nigeria2231.68
Bahrain2310.14
Micronesia, Federated States of2310.82
Paraguay2320.61
Dominican Republic2330.39
Singapore2380.06
Taiwan239-%
Sweden2590.07
Tonga2620.78
Portugal2680.17
Latvia2870.25
Samoa2961
France3180.11
Tanzania3224.55
The Gambia3266.71
Libya3280.59
Guinea-Bissau3325.72
Senegal3433.35
Kenya3533.01
Peru3550.77
Costa Rica3630.4
Colombia3640.85
Brunei3660.18
Hungary3690.34
South Sudan3735.31
Palau375-%
Australia3770.1
Guinea3806.42
Poland3870.36
Philippines3891.44
Swaziland (Eswatini)4251.59
Guyana4361.29
Namibia4461.15
Papua New Guinea4592.71
Vanuatu4842.04
Mali4938.02
Oman5020.65
Hong Kong5121.2
Germany5240.16
Central African Republic52914.55
Malaysia5670.83
Zimbabwe5765.01
Chad59113.58
Albania5971.71
Marshall Islands610-%
Malta620-%
Japan6410.24
Fiji7051.65
United States of America7250.16
Panama7300.66
Spain7360.34
Cambodia7467.55
Finland7970.23
Yemen80810.7
Kuwait8140.31
Guatemala8192.63
Bosnia and Herzegovina8331.93
Seychelles8420.75
Jordan8602.67
Somalia900-%
Haiti94114.03
Gabon9472.18
Nicaragua9486.6
El Salvador9753.53
Dominica10732.31
Iceland10890.23
Barbados11590.92
Congo (Republic of the)122925.46
Israel12410.41
Saudi Arabia12670.81
Antigua and Barbuda1271-%
Bolivia12935.67
Luxembourg13430.27
Uruguay13441.13
Syria139210.41
Grenada1410-%
Mexico14502.34
Switzerland14630.27
Norway14820.27
Iraq15734.34
Cyprus15760.72
Liechtenstein1619-%
Ecuador16304.23
Bahamas18100.89
Netherlands21900.59
Equatorial Guinea23227.18
Belgium24020.74
Austria24750.71
Lebanon28555.35
Suriname303011.14
Qatar39520.92
San Marino4672-%
Italy48762.02
United Arab Emirates74442.23

At a glance, the cheapest regions for starting a business include Central Asia and Africa.

But the cheapest countries on the dollar for a new startup are Venezuela, Rwanda, and Slovenia. While the former does have fees that only total $0.21, both Rwanda and Slovenia have no fees for new businesses, though Slovenia does have a capital requirement of €7,500.

Expensive countries for new businesses are also spread across the world. There are some in Europe, including Italy at $4,876 and Austria at $2,475, as well as the Americas, including Suriname at $3,030 and Ecuador at $1,630.

The most expensive countries, however, are largely in the Middle East. They include #1 UAE at $7,444, #4 Qatar at $3,952, and #6 Lebanon at $2,855.

Which Country is the Most Affordable for Starting a Business?

Just as costs vary by country, so too does relative affordability.

Though some countries are cheaper than others for starting a business on the dollar, the picture changes when accounting for monthly income. When it comes to the cost of starting a business relative to monthly income, many developed countries take the cake.

Not including countries with missing data, the most affordable countries for starting a business include the UK, Denmark, and Ireland in Europe, South Korea in East Asia, and New Zealand in Oceania. Startup costs in each range from just 1%-2% of monthly income.

The picture is similar in the Americas, where Chile and Canada have the lowest relative fees at 2% and 5% of monthly income respectively. Even the U.S.—which has a decently high cost of $725 for starting a business—is relatively affordable at 16% of monthly income.

Some of the least affordable countries lie in the Middle-East and Central America. Haiti and Suriname have startup costs that are 1,403% and 1,114% of monthly income, while Yemen has affordability rates of 1,070%.

But the least affordable countries are in Africa. Many countries on the continent have startup costs that are more than 100% of monthly income, but the Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic have affordability rates of 2,546% and 1,455% of monthly income, respectively.

Where is the best place to start a business? It can depend on the barrier to entry. But the biggest barrier takes time and ingenuity: finding the right idea at the right time.

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