Understanding the Disconnect Between Consumers and the Stock Market
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Understanding the Disconnect Between Consumers and the Stock Market

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Understanding the Disconnect Between Consumers and the Stock Market

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The Disconnect Between Consumers and Stock Markets

Consumer sentiment indices are relatively accurate indicators for the outlook of an economy. They rise during periods of growth as consumers become more financially confident, and fall during recessions as consumers cut back on discretionary spending.

Since the direction of the overall economy also affects stock markets, measures of consumer sentiment have historically moved in tandem with major indices like the S&P 500. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, however, consumers and stock markets have become noticeably disjointed from one another.

To help us understand why this may be the case, this infographic charts the University of Michigan’s Index of Consumer Sentiment against the S&P 500, before diving into potential underlying factors for their divergence.

A Tale of Two Indices

Before we compare these two indices, it’s helpful to first understand how they’re comprised.

The Index of Consumer Sentiment

The University of Michigan’s Index of Consumer Sentiment (ICS) is derived from a monthly survey of consumers that aims to get a snapshot of personal finances, business conditions, and buying conditions in the market.

The survey consists of five questions (paraphrased):

  • Are you better or worse off financially compared to a year ago?
  • Will you be better or worse off financially a year in the future?
  • Will business conditions during the next year be good, bad, or other?
  • Will business conditions over the next five years be good, bad, or other?
  • Is it a good time to make large purchases such as major household appliances?

A score for each of these questions is calculated based on the percent of favorable and nonfavorable replies. The scores are then aggregated to arrive at the final index value, relative to 6.8—the 1966 base period value.

The S&P 500

The S&P 500 is a market capitalization-weighted index of the 500 largest publicly traded U.S. companies. A company’s market capitalization is calculated as its current stock price multiplied by its total number of outstanding shares.

Market caps change over time, with movements determined by daily stock price fluctuations, the issuance of new stock, or the repurchase of existing shares (also known as share buybacks).

The COVID-19 Divergence

Throughout past market cycles, these two indices have displayed some degree of correlation.

During the bull market of the ‘90s, the S&P 500 generated an astonishing 417% return, and was accompanied by a 75% increase in consumer sentiment. Critically, both indices also peaked at roughly the same time. The ICS began to decline after reaching its record high of 112.0 in January 2000, while the S&P 500 began to falter in August that same year.

Fast forwarding to 2020, we can see that these indices have responded quite differently during the pandemic so far:

IndexJan 2020 Feb 2020 Mar 2020 Apr 2020 May 2020 June 2020 July 17, 2020 
ICS Value99.810189.171.872.378.173.2
ICS YTD0.5%1.7%-10.3%-27.7%-27.2%-21.4%-26.3%
S&P 500 Value3225.52954.22584.62912.43044.33100.33224.7
S&P 500 YTD-0.2%-8.6%-20.0%-9.9%-5.8%-4.0%-0.2%

All figures as of month end unless otherwise specified. Source: Yahoo Finance

The ICS has not yet recovered from its initial decline beginning in March, whereas the S&P 500 has seemingly bounced back during the same time frame.

Examining the Disconnect

Why are stock markets failing to recognize the hardships that consumers are feeling? Let’s examine two central factors behind this disconnect.

Reason 1: Tech’s Dominance of the S&P 500

Recall that a company’s weight in the S&P 500 is determined by its market cap. This means that certain sectors can form a larger part of the index than others. Here’s how each sector sizes up:

S&P 500 SectorIndex weight as of June 30, 2020 (%)
Information technology 27.5%
Health care14.6%
Consumer discretionary10.8%
Communication services10.8% 
Financials10.1%
Industrials8.0%
Consumer staples7.0%
Utilities3.1%
Real estate2.8%
Energy2.8%
Materials2.5%

Source: S&P Global

Based on this breakdown, we can see that the information technology (IT) sector accounts for over a quarter of the S&P 500. With a weighting of 27.5%, the sector alone is bigger than the bottom six combined (Industrials to Materials).

This inequality means the performance of the IT sector has a stronger relative impact on the index’s overall returns. Within IT, we can highlight the FAANGM subset of stocks, which include some of America’s biggest names in tech:

StockMarket Cap as of June 30, 2020 ($)
Apple$1.6 trillion
Microsoft$1.5 trillion
Amazon$1.4 trillion
Google$930 billion
Facebook$668 billion
Netflix$200 billion
S&P 500 average$53 billion

Source: Yahoo Finance

These companies have grown rapidly over the past decade, and continue to perform strongly during the pandemic. If this trend continues, the S&P 500 could skew even further towards the IT sector, and become less representative of America’s overall economy.

Reason 2: The U.S. Federal Reserve

Stock prices typically reflect a company’s future earnings prospects, meaning they are influenced, to a degree, by the outlook for the broader economy.

With an ongoing pandemic and steep decline in consumer sentiment, it’s reasonable to believe that many company prospects would look bleak. This is especially true for consumer cyclicals—companies like automobile manufacturers that rely on discretionary spending.

In a somewhat controversial move, the U.S. Federal Reserve has stepped in to counter these effects by creating the Secondary Market Corporate Credit Facility (SMCCF). This facility operates two programs which ensure businesses have access to funding during the pandemic.

Corporate Bond Purchase Program
The SMCCF is currently buying corporate bonds from an index of nearly 800 companies. Of the ten largest recipients of this program, five are categorized as consumer cyclical:

IssuerCategoryIndex Weight (%)
Toyota Motor Credit CorpConsumer cyclical1.74%
Volkswagen Group AmericaConsumer cyclical1.74%
Daimler Finance NA LLCConsumer cyclical1.72%
AT&T IncCommunications1.60%
Apple IncTechnology1.60%
Verizon CommunicationsCommunications1.60%
General ElectricCapital goods1.48%
Ford Motor Credit Co LLCConsumer cyclical1.34%
Comcast CorpCommunications1.32%
BMW US Capital LLCConsumer cyclical1.25%

Source: Investopedia

This program is intended to support the flow of credit, but its announcement in June also gave stock markets a boost in confidence. With the Fed directly supporting corporations, shareholders are being shielded from risks related to declining sales and bankruptcy.

By the end of June, the SMCCF had purchased $429 million in corporate bonds.

ETF Purchase Program
The SMCCF is also authorized to purchase corporate bond ETFs, a historic first for the Fed. The facility’s five largest ETF purchases as of June 18, 2020, are detailed below:

ETF Name Purchase size ($)ETF Description
iShares iBoxx $ Investment Grade Corporate Bond ETF (LQD)$1.7 billionTracks an index composed of USD-denominated, investment grade corporate bonds.
Vanguard Short-Term Corporate Bond ETF (VCSH)$1.3 billionInvests primarily in investment grade corporate bonds, maintaining an average maturity of 1 to 5 years.
Vanguard Intermediate-Term Corporate Bond ETF (VCIT)$1.0 billionInvests primarily in investment grade corporate bonds, maintaining an average maturity of 5 to 10 years.
iShares Short-Term Corporate Bond ETF (IGSB)$608 millionTracks an index composed of USD-denominated investment-grade corporate bonds with maturities between 1 and 5 years.
SPDR Barclays High Yield Bond ETF (JNK)$412 millionSeeks to provide a diversified exposure to USD-denominated high yield corporate bonds.

Source: Investopedia

Although the SMCCF’s purchase of ETFs outsize those of corporate bonds, the Fed has signaled its intention to make direct bond purchases its primary focus going forward.

Will Markets and Consumers Reconnect Anytime Soon?

It’s hard to see the S&P 500 moving towards a more balanced sector composition in the near future. America’s big tech stocks have been resilient during the pandemic, with some even reaching new highs.

The Fed also remains committed to providing corporations with credit, thereby enabling them to “borrow” their way out of the pandemic. These commitments have propped up stock markets by reducing bankruptcy risk and potentially speeding up the economic recovery.

Consumer sentiment, on the other hand, has yet to show signs of recovery. Surveys released in early July may shed some light on why—63% of Americans believe it will take a year or more for the economy to fully recover, while 82% are hoping for an extension of COVID-19 relief programs.

With both sides moving in opposite directions, it’s possible the disconnect could grow even larger before it starts to shrink.

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Visualized: The World’s Population at 8 Billion

Our population will soon reach a new milestone—8 billion. These visualizations show where all those people are distributed around the world

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Visualized: The World’s Population at 8 Billion

At some point in late 2022, the eight billionth human being will enter the world, ushering in a new milestone for humanity.

In just 48 years, the world population has doubled in size, jumping from four to eight billion. Of course, humans are not equally spread throughout the planet, and countries take all shapes and sizes. The visualizations in this article aim to build context on how the eight billion people are distributed around the world.

For extended coverage of this moment and what it means to the world, you can get access to our full report and webinar by signing up to VC+, our premium newsletter.

Now, here’s a look at each country’s population as of September 2022:

Global RankCountry/RegionPopulation (2022)
1🇨🇳 China1,451,832,064
2🇮🇳 India1,410,982,243
3🇺🇸 United States335,391,957
4🇮🇩 Indonesia280,139,383
5🇵🇰 Pakistan230,918,073
6🇳🇬 Nigeria218,243,241
7🇧🇷 Brazil215,986,577
8🇧🇩 Bangladesh168,436,792
9🇷🇺 Russia146,074,130
10🇲🇽 Mexico132,030,739
11Japan125,619,457
12Ethiopia121,709,461
13Philippines112,939,493
14Egypt106,839,825
15Vietnam98,311,965
16Democratic Republic of Congo96,104,525
17Iran86,465,398
16Turkey86,415,852
19Germany84,385,892
20Thailand70,192,866
21United Kingdom68,691,253
22France65,597,276
23Tanzania63,802,882
24South Africa61,027,608
25Italy60,264,287
26Kenya56,557,929
27Myanmar55,236,333
28Colombia52,123,686
29South Korea51,367,770
30Uganda49,222,889
31Spain46,795,195
32Sudan46,265,964
33Argentina46,141,195
34Algeria45,695,757
35Ukraine43,156,242
36Iraq42,348,230
37Afghanistan40,993,541
38Canada38,495,773
39Morocco37,914,397
40Poland37,754,428
41Saudi Arabia36,069,266
42Angola35,327,540
43Uzbekistan34,589,376
44Peru34,031,086
45Mozambique33,346,961
46Malaysia33,319,730
47Ghana32,594,574
48Yemen31,371,445
49Nepal30,357,476
50Madagascar29,381,411
51Venezuela28,257,503
52Cameroon28,111,718
53Cote d'Ivoire27,925,649
54Niger26,344,186
55Australia26,178,342
56North Korea26,033,387
57Taiwan23,913,311
58Burkina Faso22,270,251
59Mali21,646,251
60Sri Lanka21,615,470
61Malawi20,304,147
62Chile19,489,734
63Zambia19,613,655
64Kazakhstan19,292,183
65Romania18,956,053
66Guatemala18,688,479
67Syria18,506,569
68Ecuador18,262,799
69Senegal17,793,385
70Chad17,553,601
71Cambodia17,252,457
72Netherlands17,219,859
73Somalia16,951,984
74Zimbabwe15,362,663
75Guinea13,981,705
76Rwanda13,712,855
77Benin12,878,142
78Burundi12,740,471
79Tunisia12,101,418
80Bolivia12,039,974
81Haiti11,721,737
82Belgium11,703,272
83South Sudan11,494,756
84Cuba11,311,223
85Dominican Republic11,096,411
86Czechia10,753,478
87Jordan10,434,463
88Azerbaijan10,347,430
89Greece10,310,847
90Honduras10,269,662
91Sweden10,241,804
92United Arab Emirates10,164,747
93Portugal10,130,876
94Hungary9,605,987
95Tajikistan10,042,202
96Belarus9,442,398
97Papua New Guinea9,342,727
98Austria9,122,566
99Israel8,969,013
100Switzerland8,798,256
101Togo8,737,152
102Serbia8,659,648
103Sierra Leone8,357,040
104Hong Kong SAR7,635,279
105Laos7,519,384
106Paraguay7,333,782
107Libya7,086,602
108Bulgaria6,833,885
109Nicaragua6,805,420
110Kyrgyzstan6,774,001
111Lebanon6,758,016
112El Salvador6,560,071
113Turkmenistan6,236,038
114Singapore5,954,898
115Congo5,839,721
116Denmark5,838,070
117Finland5,559,984
118Norway5,517,561
119Slovakia5,465,545
120Oman5,414,812
121Palestine5,381,277
122Liberia5,338,398
123Costa Rica5,200,150
124Ireland5,064,136
125Central African Republic5,025,077
126Mauritania4,940,298
127New Zealand4,911,293
128Panama4,472,108
129Kuwait4,416,533
130Croatia4,049,640
131Moldova4,013,174
132Georgia3,972,171
133Eritrea3,659,593
134Uruguay3,500,798
135Mongolia3,400,693
136Bosnia and Herzegovina3,235,985
137Armenia2,975,648
138Qatar2,994,073
139Jamaica2,990,290
140Albania2,870,809
141Puerto Rico2,704,519
142Namibia2,648,122
143Lithuania2,640,339
144Gambia2,578,866
145Botswana2,462,832
146Gabon2,349,783
147Lesotho2,180,846
148North Macedonia2,083,183
149Slovenia2,079,575
150Guinea-Bissau2,077,878
151Bahrain1,845,321
152Latvia1,840,901
153Equatorial Guinea1,514,454
154Trinidad and Tobago1,409,672
155Timor1,377,091
156Estonia1,328,527
157Mauritius1,276,493
158Cyprus1,227,303
159Eswatini1,187,627
160Djibouti1,021,185
161Comoros913,105
162Fiji911,185
163Réunion909,806
164Guyana795,114
165Bhutan791,064
166Solomon Islands726,764
167Macao SAR669,734
168Luxembourg649,600
169Montenegro628,243
170Western Sahara632,115
171Suriname598,608
172Cape Verde569,810
173Micronesia (Fed. States of)561,300
174Maldives561,291
175Brunei447,038
176Malta444,182
177Belize414,449
178Bahamas401,818
179Guadeloupe400,277
180Martinique374,617
181Iceland346,259
182Vanuatu324,088
183French Guiana317,076
184New Caledonia291,762
185Mayotte288,384
186Barbados288,162
187French Polynesia284,580
188Sao Tome and Principe228,652
189Samoa201,401
190Saint Lucia185,519
191Channel Islands177,517
192Guam172,146
193Curaçao165,604
194Kiribati123,690
195Grenada113,966
196Saint Vincent and the Grenadines111,732
197Tonga108,440
198Aruba107,787
199United States Virgin Islands104,083
200Antigua and Barbuda99,773
201Seychelles99,725
202Isle of Man86,049
203Andorra77,542
204Dominica72,387
205Cayman Islands67,492
206Bermuda61,769
207Marshall Islands60,095
208Northern Mariana Islands58,336
209Greenland56,991
210American Samoa54,920
211Saint Kitts and Nevis54,052
212Faeroe Islands49,281
213Sint Maarten43,991
214Turks and Caicos39,924
215Monaco39,873
216Saint Martin40,198
217Liechtenstein38,374
218San Marino34,091
219Gibraltar33,669
220British Virgin Islands30,687
221Caribbean Netherlands26,779
222Palau18,288
223Cook Islands17,600
224Anguilla15,308
225Tuvalu12,126
226Nauru10,978
227Wallis and Futuna10,818
228Saint Barthelemy9,945
229Saint Helena6,118
230Saint Pierre & Miquelon5,732
231Montserrat4,999
232Falkland Islands3,723
233Niue1,651
234Tokelau1,396
235Holy See806

Below are regional breakdowns of population.

Africa’s Population by Country

As of 2022, Africa’s total population stands at 1.4 billion people. Many of the countries with the fastest growth rates are located in Africa and by 2050, the population of the continent is expected to jump to 2.5 billion.

Data visualization showing a population breakdown of African countries in 2022

Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country and its largest economy. Based on current growth rates, Nigeria’s largest city, Lagos, could even emerge as the world’s top megacity by the end of the century.

Africa has by far the lowest median age of any of the other continents.

Asia’s Population by Country

With 4.7 billion people in 2022, Asia is by far the world’s most populous region.

The continent is dominated by the two massive population centers of China and India. In 2023, a big shift will occur, with India surpassing China to become the world’s most populous country. China has held top spot for centuries, but the mismatch between the two countries’ growth rates made it only a matter of time before this milestone arrived.

Data visualization showing a population breakdown of Asian countries in 2022

Asia is a region of contrast when it comes to population growth. On the one end are countries like Singapore and Japan, which are actually shrinking. On the other, are Middle Eastern nations like Oman and Qatar, which have robust population growth rates of 4-5%.

Vietnam is on the cusp of becoming the 15th country to surpass the 100 million population mark.

Europe’s Population by Country

Europe’s population in 2022 is 750 million people—more than twice the size of the United States.

A century ago, Europe’s population was close to 30% of the world total. Today, that figure stands at less than 10%. This is, in part, due to population growth throughout other regions of the world.

More importantly though, Europe’s population is contracting in a number of places—Eastern Europe in particular. Many of the countries with the slowest growth rates are located in the Balkans and former Soviet Bloc countries.

Data visualization showing a population breakdown of European countries in 2022

Russia remains Europe’s largest country by population. Although the country’s landmass extends all the way across Asia, three-quarters of Russia’s people live on the European side of the country.

Germany is the second largest country in Europe, followed by the UK, France, and Italy.

Ukraine is the seventh largest population center in Europe, but it remains to be seen how the current conflict with Russia impacts the country’s long-term population prospects.

North America’s Population by Country

North America’s population is 602 million people as of 2022.

The continent is dominated by the United States, which makes up more than half of the total population. America’s population is still growing modestly (by global standards), but perhaps more interesting are the internal migration patterns that are occurring. States like Texas and Florida are seeing an influx from other states.

Data visualization showing a population breakdown of North American countries in 2022

Canada has one of the highest population growth rates of major developed economies thanks to international migration.

Mexico is currently the 10th most populous country, but will eventually be bumped from the top 10 list by fast-growing African nations.

South America’s Population by Country

The population of South America in 2022 is 439 million. Brazil makes up nearly half of that total.

Data visualization showing a population breakdown of South American countries in 2022

Sometime this decade, Colombia’s capital, Bogotá, will become the region’s fifth megacity (which is defined as having a population of 10 million or more). São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, and Lima are South America’s current megacities.

Oceania’s Population by Country

The population of the Oceania region is 44 million people—just slightly higher than the population of California.

Australia, New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea make up the lion’s share of the population of this region.

Data visualization showing a population breakdown of Oceania's countries in 2022

Interestingly, many of the smallest countries by population can also be found in this region.

When Will Earth’s Population Hit 9 Billion?

The next global population milestone—nine billion—will likely be hit sometime in the 2030s.

In fact, Earth’s population is expected to continue growing until it hits a peak at some point in the 2080s—possibly over the 10 billion mark.

world at 8 billion report

Where does this data come from?

Source: United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division via Worldometer’s live tracker (as of Sept 27, 2022).

Context: The UN has estimated that November 15th, 2022, will be the date that the world population officially hits 8 billion.

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The Biggest Tech Talent Hubs in the U.S. and Canada

6.5 million skilled tech workers currently work in the U.S. and Canada. Here we look at the largest tech hubs across the two countries

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The Biggest Tech Talent Hubs in the U.S. and Canada

The tech workforce just keeps growing. In fact, there are now an estimated 6.5 million tech workers between the U.S. and Canada — 5.5 million of which work in the United States.

This infographic draws from a report by CBRE to determine which tech talent markets in the U.S. and Canada are the largest. The data looks at total workforce in the sector, as well as the change in tech worker population over time in various cities.

The report also classifies which metro areas and regions can rightly be considered tech hubs in the first place, by looking at a variety of factors including cost of living, average educational attainment, and tech employment levels as a share of different industries.

The Top Tech Hubs in the U.S.

Silicon Valley, in California’s Bay Area, remains the most prominent (and expensive) U.S. tech hub, with a talent pool of nearly 380,000 tech workers.

Here’s a look at the top tech talent markets in the country in terms of total worker population:

🇺🇸 MarketTotal Tech Talent% Talent Growth (2016-2021)
SF Bay Area378,87013%
New York Metro344,5203%
Washington D.C. 259,3106%
Los Angeles235,80010%
Seattle189,57032%
Dallas/Ft. Worth187,95015%
Chicago167,5606%
Boston166,4502%
Atlanta145,0807%
Denver117,62023%
Philadelphia115,450 7%
Minneapolis100,9905%
Phoenix99,60018%
Houston98,930-2%
Detroit 93,7705%
Austin 84,68021%
Baltimore79,0008%
San Diego77,780 16%
Raleigh/Durham69,05011%
Portland67,410 28%
South Florida66,660 8%
Charlotte61,95022%
Salt Lake City55,93029%
St. Louis53,9102%
Kansas City52,5000%
Tampa 52,24013%
Columbus50,3904%

America’s large, coastal cities still contain the lion’s share of tech talent, but mid-sized tech hubs like Salt Lake City, Portland, and Denver have put up strong growth numbers in recent years. Seattle, which is home to both Amazon and Microsoft, posted an impressive 32% growth rate over the last five years.

Emerging tech hubs include areas like Raleigh-Durham. The two cities have nearly 70,000 employed tech workers and a strong talent pipeline, seeing a 28% increase in degree completions in fields like Math/Statistics and Computer Engineering year-over-year to 2020. In fact, the entire state of North Carolina is becoming an increasingly attractive business hub.

Houston was the one city on this list that had a negative growth rate, at -2%.

The Top Tech Hubs in Canada

Tech giants like Google, Meta, and Amazon are continuously and aggressively growing their presence in Canada, further solidifying the country’s status as the next big destination for tech talent. Here are the country’s four tech hubs with a total worker population of more than 50,000:

🇨🇦 MarketTotal Tech Talent% Talent Growth (2016-2021)
Toronto289,70044%
Montreal148,90027%
Vancouver115,40063%
Ottawa81,20022%

Toronto saw the most absolute growth tech positions in 2021, adding 88,900 jobs. The tech sector in Canada’s largest city has seen a lot of momentum in recent years, and is now ranked by CBRE as North America’s #3 tech hub, after the SF Bay Area and New York City.

Vancouver’s tech talent population increased the most from its original figure, climbing 63%. Seattle-based companies like Microsoft and Amazon have established sizable offices in the city, adding to the already thriving tech scene. Furthermore, Google is set to build a submarine high-speed fiber optic cable connecting Canada to Asia, with a terminus in Vancouver.

Not to be left behind, Ottawa has also taken giant strides to increase their tech talent and stamp their presence. The country’s capital even has the highest concentration of tech employment in its workforce, thanks in part to the success of Shopify.

Map showing tech employment concentration in the U.S. and Canada

The small, but well-known tech hub of Waterloo also had a very high concentration on tech employment (9.6%). The region has seen its tech workforce grow by 8% over the past five years.

Six out of the top 10 cities by tech workforce concentration are located in Canada.

Evolution of Tech Hubs

The post-COVID era has seen a shifting definition of what a tech hub means. It’s clear that remote work is here to stay, and as workers migrate to chase affordability and comfort, traditional tech hubs are seeing some decline — or at least slower growth — in their population of tech workers.

While it isn’t evident that there is a mass exodus of tech talent from traditional coastal hubs, the rise in high-paying tech jobs in smaller markets across the country could point to a trend and is positive for the industry.

While more workers with great talent, resources, and education continue to opt for cost-friendly places to reside and work remotely, will newer markets like Charlotte, Tennessee, and Calgary see a rise of tech companies, or will large corporations and startups alike continue to opt for the larger cities on the coast?

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