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The Top Global Risks in 2019

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

The suits are pressed and the jets are gassed up, as global political and business leaders prepare to converge in Davos for the World Economic Forum.

To prep the wide variety of world leaders attending the summit, the organization has just published its most recent edition of the Global Risks Report. The highly anticipated annual presentation puts the world’s most pressing issues into focus, giving a sense of what is top-of-mind for global decision-makers.

Below are the top five risks highlighted in this year’s report.

Visualizing the Top Global Risks in 2019

The World’s Evolving Risk Landscape

The report looks at two specific ways of evaluating global risks:

  1. The likelihood of an event occurring
  2. The impact or severity of an event, should it occur

And over recent years, it’s clear that the composition of these top threats has evolved.

top global risks over time

In 2009, the world was still reeling from the global financial crisis, so economic concerns were naturally at the forefront of discussions.

Today, the most likely scenarios to play out in the near future involve extreme weather events and natural disasters. Also trending upward are cyber-security threats and concerns over the security of personal data.

Risk Perception

Each year, the Global Risks Perception Survey looks at which risks are viewed by global decision-makers as increasing in the coming year.

global risks survey 2019

Some clear themes emerge from the responses:

A Breakdown in Geopolitical Cooperation
From trade wars to the dissolution of weapons treaties, cooperation between countries is on the decline. Leaders are concerned that this divergent geopolitical climate may continue to inhibit collective progress on important global challenges.

Technological Instabilities
As the influence of technology creeps into more aspects of everyday life, cyber-attacks and lax cybersecurity protocols are becoming more of a concern. In one dramatic example information theft, multiple breaches of India’s government ID database reportedly left the information of over 1 billion registered citizens exposed. Technology is influencing society in other ways too, such as the pervasive issue of “fake news”.

Polarization of Government and Society
One of the major themes of this year’s forum will be addressing increasing polarization in many countries.

Where opposing political groups previously expressed frustration with each other, they now express fear and anger.

– Global Risks Report 2019

Gauging the National Sentiment

The report also looks at questions related to human happiness too.

One might ask, “Is the world becoming a better or worse place?” That, of course, is a complicated question, and one that is influenced by geography and socioeconomic standing.

tale of two countries

Survey data also shows that when people are asked to compare their lives to their parents’ generation, the answers vary greatly from country to country.

The prevailing opinion in China is that things are improving, whereas nearly 60% of French respondents had a pessimistic view of the realities facing their generation. While France has a uniquely gloomy outlook on the future, this uncertainty is reflected in the opinion of citizens in many other developed democracies as well.

In Davos, global leaders will be pondering a similar question: How do we move towards a brighter future for the next generation when the collective will for tackling global problems appears to be weakening?

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Chart of the Week

Visualizing Africa’s Free Trade Ambitions

The Gambia recently became the latest country to ratify the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), helping the landmark agreement reach critical mass to move forward.

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africa free trade

Visualizing Africa’s Free Trade Ambitions

A united African continent working towards common goals would be a major force on the global economic stage.

To this end, nations in the region have been working towards an ambitious plan to create the world’s largest trade area. The Gambia recently became the latest country to ratify the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), helping the agreement reach critical mass to move forward.

Today’s graphic helps put the region – and the status of AfCFTA – into perspective.

The Patchwork Problem

One key to unlocking the region’s economic potential is making it easier for Africa’s 55 countries to trade with one another.

Currently, Africa is a patchwork of regulations and tariffs, and trade between countries has suffered as a result. For example, only 10% of Nigeria’s annual trade activity is with other African countries. This is a surprising given the country’s dominant economic standing and location firmly in the center of the continent.

As a whole, Africa’s intra-continental trade level hovers at just around 20%, while nations in Europe and Asia are at 69% and 59%, respectively. Clearly, there is a lot of room for growth.

What is AfCFTA?

AfCFTA is the biggest free trade agreement since the establishment of the World Trade Organization.

The objective of the agreement is to create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business people and investments.

Last year, 44 African leaders signed an agreement to ratify AfCFTA, with half that number needed to move the agreement forward. Earlier this week, The Gambia was the 22nd country to announce that its government has ratified the agreement, meeting the threshold to officially put the wheels in motion.

We have witnessed a historic moment for the African Continent. AfCFTA is now set to become operational within
the month, creating a single continental market for goods
and services.

– Mark-Anthony Johnson, CEO, JIC Holdings

The good news for the agreement is that many of Africa’s largest economies – including Egypt and South Africa – are already on board. There is, however, one significant holdout.

The Elephant in the Room

Even though the threshold for pushing AfCFTA forward has been reached, Nigeria’s lack of commitment is still a major blow to the strength and credibility of the agreement.

Nigeria’s situation is complicated. The country’s economic prospects are bright, and Lagos is on a trajectory to become the world’s largest city over the next few decades. On the other hand, there is fierce opposition from labor unions, and the country is home to largest concentration of people living in extreme poverty in the world.

[AfCFTA is] an extremely dangerous and radioactive
neo-liberal policy initiative.

– Ayuba Wabba, President of NLC, Nigeria’s largest labor union

While the majority of African nations appear to be on board with the plan to enact AfCFTA, it remains to be seen whether Nigeria comes along for the ride or decides to go it alone.

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Economy

How Macro Trends Shape the Market’s Future

From climate change to aging populations, macro trends are changing the future. Here’s how to use them to your advantage.

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It’s hard to say for certain what the future holds.

Without the luxury of a crystal ball, investors must find opportunities by analyzing the market. There’s just one problem: the 24/7 news cycle is enough to make anyone’s head spin.

Where should an investor focus their attention, when almost every new venture is forecast to be the next big thing?

The Powerful Influence of Macro Trends

Today’s infographic comes to us from U.S. Global Investors, and it highlights how analyzing macro trends can serve as a key investment tool.

U.S. Global Macro Trends

Two Main Investment Approaches

When selecting stocks, many investors fall into one of two camps:

1. Top-down Investing

  1. Analyze macroeconomic trends.
  2. Identify specific sectors and regions.
  3. Choose individual stocks based on company fundamentals.

Considering the aging Chinese population, a top-down investor may choose to invest in Chinese healthcare stocks.

2. Bottom-up Investing

  1. Complete in-depth company analyses.
  2. Select a stock that is outperforming others in its sector.

A bottom-up investor could analyze Home Depot and choose to invest if it had strong performance relative to Lowe’s.

These approaches can be used separately, or even combined together. Zooming out allows investors to identify the big picture opportunities. Then, a bottom-up approach can find the companies that best capitalize on each trend.

What is a Macro Trend?

A macro trend is a long-term directional shift that affects a large population, often on a global scale. For example, climate change is affecting industries in both positive and negative ways. While “green” industries have seen increased support, ski resorts are projected to have 50% shorter winter seasons by 2050.

There are a couple of main ways to identify macro trends:

  1. Government policy
    Government policies are a precursor to change, shaping macro trends and creating opportunities. For instance, Obama’s Recovery Act fueled growth in renewable energy with a $90 billion investment.
  2. Economic cycles
    The cyclical nature of the economy means that investors can also use history to identify macro trends. Consider fiscal and monetary policy, which is implemented in response to economic data:

    • Expanding economy
      The central bank raises rates and the government reduces fiscal stimulus. As a result, inflation is moderated.
      • Contracting economy
        The central bank lowers rates and the government increases fiscal stimulus. As a result, growth is stimulated.

Discovering Long-Term Value

Macro trends are a key tool for discovering long-term market opportunities. They are beneficial because they are:

  • Unbiased and data-driven
  • Not swayed by daily headlines
  • Tend to avoid riskier, niche industries
  • Can be diversified by sectors and regions

There are currently many macro trends at play. For example, Trump’s sweeping tax reform and deregulation boosted the U.S. economy, lifting GDP growth to a 13-year high of over 3% in 2018 Q3.

However, not everyone’s a winner. America’s reduced taxes have made Canada less competitive. It’s estimated that 4.9% of Canada’s GDP is at risk due to ripple effects from U.S. tax reform. What’s more, regulators worry that the bank deregulations might put the financial system at risk.

The proposals under consideration… weaken the buffers that are core to the resilience of our system.

— Lael Brainard, Member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve

So, how do investors distill this wealth of information into a future of wealth?

Spotting the Next Wave

In today’s hyper-connected world, it’s easy to get lost in data overload. Thinking big picture allows investors to focus on trends that:

  • Have a long-term outlook
  • Affect a large population
  • Create a clearer vision of the future

Then, an investor can target the most promising regions and sectors. When used effectively, this approach enables investors to ride the next big wave that will shape markets.

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