Infographic: Visualizing the Commodity Super Cycle
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What is a Commodity Super Cycle?

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What is a Commodity Super Cycle?

Visualizing the Commodity Super Cycle

Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the world has seen its population and the need for natural resources boom.

As more people and wealth translate into the demand for global goods, the prices of commodities—such as energy, agriculture, livestock, and metals—have often followed in sync.

This cycle, which tends to coincide with extended periods of industrialization and modernization, helps in telling a story of human development.

Why are Commodity Prices Cyclical?

Commodity prices go through extended periods during which prices are well above or below their long-term price trend. There are two types of swings in commodity prices: upswings and downswings.

Many economists believe that the upswing phase in super cycles results from a lag between unexpected, persistent, and positive trends to support commodity demand with slow-moving supply, such as the building of a new mine or planting a new crop. Eventually, as adequate supply becomes available and demand growth slows, the cycle enters a downswing phase.

While individual commodity groups have their own price patterns, when charted together they form extended periods of price trends known as “Commodity Super Cycles” where there is a recognizable pattern across major commodity groups.

How can a Commodity Super Cycle be Identified?

Commodity super cycles are different from immediate supply disruptions; high or low prices persist over time.

In our above chart, we used data from the Bank of Canada, who leveraged a statistical technique called an asymmetric band pass filter. This is a calculation that can identify the patterns or frequencies of events in sets of data.

Economists at the Bank of Canada employed this technique using their Commodity Price Index (BCPI) to search for evidence of super cycles. This is an index of the spot or transaction prices in U.S. dollars of 26 commodities produced in Canada and sold to world markets.

  • Energy: Coal, Oil, Natural Gas
  • Metals and Minerals: Gold, Silver, Nickel, Copper, Aluminum, Zinc, Potash, Lead, Iron
  • Forestry: Pulp, Lumber, Newsprint
  • Agriculture: Potatoes, Cattle, Hogs, Wheat, Barley, Canola, Corn
  • Fisheries: Finfish, Shellfish

Using the band pass filter and the BCPI data, the chart indicates that there are four distinct commodity price super cycles since 1899.

  • 1899-1932:
    The first cycle coincides with the industrialization of the United States in the late 19th century.
  • 1933-1961:
    The second began with the onset of global rearmament before the Second World War in the 1930s.
  • 1962-1995:
    The third began with the reindustrialization of Europe and Japan in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
  • 1996 – Present:
    The fourth began in the mid to late 1990s with the rapid industrialization of China

What Causes Commodity Cycles?

The rapid industrialization and growth of a nation or region are the main drivers of these commodity super cycles.

From the rapid industrialization of America emerging as a world power at the beginning of the 20th century, to the ascent of China at the beginning of the 21st century, these historical periods of growth and industrialization drive new demand for commodities.

Because there is often a lag in supply coming online, prices have nowhere to go but above long-term trend lines. Then, prices cannot subside until supply is overshot, or growth slows down.

Is This the Beginning of a New Super Cycle?

The evidence suggests that human industrialization drives commodity prices into cycles. However, past growth was asymmetric around the world with different countries taking the lion’s share of commodities at different times.

With more and more parts of the world experiencing growth simultaneously, demand for commodities is not isolated to a few nations.

Confined to Earth, we could possibly be entering an era where commodities could perpetually be scarce and valuable, breaking the cycles and giving power to nations with the greatest access to resources.

Each commodity has its own story, but together, they show the arc of human development.

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Energy

The Top 10 Biggest Companies in Brazil

What drives some of the world’s emerging economies? From natural resources to giant banks, here are the top 10 biggest companies in Brazil.

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The Top 10 Biggest Companies in Brazil Oct 10 Share

The Top 10 Biggest Companies in Brazil

In 2009, the at-the-time emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, and China held their first formal summits as members of BRIC (with South Africa joining in 2010).

Together, BRICS represents 26.7% of the world’s land surface and 41.5% of its population. By GDP ranking, they’re also some of the most powerful economies in the world.

But what drives their economies? We’re highlighting the top 10 biggest companies in each country, starting with Brazil.

What Are the Biggest Public Companies in Brazil?

Brazil isn’t just one of the largest and most diverse countries in the world, it is also an economic powerhouse.

With over 213 million people, Brazil is the sixth most populous country on Earth and the largest in Latin America. It’s also the wealthiest on the continent, with the world’s 12th-largest economy.

Once a colony focused on sugar and gold, Brazil rapidly industrialized in the 20th century. Today, it is a top 10 exporter of industrial steel, with the country’s economic strength coming chiefly from natural resources and financials.

Here are Brazil’s biggest public companies by market capitalization in October 2021:

Top 10 Companies (October 2021)CategoryMarket Cap (USD)
ValeMetals and Mining$73.03B
Petróleo BrasileiroOil and Gas$69.84B
AmbevDrinks$43.87B
Itaú UnibancoFinancial$41.65B
Banco BradescoFinancial$34.16B
WEGIndustrial Engineering$29.43B
BTG PactualFinancial$25.01B
Banco Santander BrasilFinancial$24.70B
Rede D’Or Sao LuizHospital$23.79B
XP Inc.Financial$22.45B

At the top of the ranking is Vale, a metals and mining giant that is the world’s largest producer of iron ore and nickel. Also the operator of infrastructure including hydroelectricity plants, railroads, and ports, It consistently ranks as the most valuable company in Latin America.

Vale and second-ranking company Petróleo Brasileiro, Brazil’s largest oil producer, were former state-owned corporations that became privatized in the 1990s.

Finance in Brazil’s Top 10 Biggest Companies

Other than former monopolies, the top 10 biggest companies in Brazil highlight the power of the banking sector.

Five of the 10 companies with a market cap above $20 billion are in the financial industry.

They include Itaú Unibanco, the largest bank in the Southern Hemisphere, and Banco Santander Brasil, the Brazilian subsidiary of Spanish finance corp.

Another well-known subsidiary is brewing company Ambev, which produces the majority of the country’s liquors and also bottles and distributes PepsiCo products in much of Latin America. Ambev is an important piece of Belgian drink juggernaut Anheuser-Busch InBev, which is one of the world’s largest 100 companies.

Noticeably missing from the top 10 list are companies in the agriculture sector, as Brazil is the world’s largest exporter of coffee, soybeans, beef, and ethanol. Many multinational corporations have Brazilian subsidiaries or partners for supply chain access, which has recently put a spotlight on Amazon deforestation.

What other companies or industries do you associate with Brazil?

Correction: Two companies listed had errors in their market cap calculations and have been updated. All data is as of October 11, 2021.

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Politics

Which Countries Have the Most Nuclear Weapons?

How big is the world’s nuclear arsenal? Here are the stockpiles of the nine countries with nuclear weapons.

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Visualizing Countries with the Most Nuclear Weapons 1200

Which Countries Have the Most Nuclear Weapons?

In theory, nuclear weapon stockpiles are closely held national secrets. The leading countries have rough estimates that aren’t regularly updated, newly nuclear countries keep their capabilities vague and unclear, and Israel has never officially confirmed a nuclear weapons program.

But thanks to limited disclosures, records, and leaks, we can visualize the full extent* of the world’s nuclear arsenal. This graphic uses estimated nuclear warhead inventories from the Federation of American Scientists as of August 2021.

Based on these estimates, there are just nine countries with nuclear weapons in the world.

Editor’s note: Exact numbers of nuclear warheads possessed by countries are closely guarded state secrets, with the FAS estimate being the closest, most-used, and most-trusted international approximation available.

Nuclear Weapons, by Country

The nuclear arms race has always centered around the U.S. and Russia.

After the end of World War II and well into the Cold War, the world’s two superpowers raced to build more nuclear weapons (and more capable nuclear weapons) than the other.

Even while international organizations lobbied for the end of nuclear proliferation, the world’s nuclear weapon stockpile grew to a peak of 70,300 total warheads in 1986.

As arms agreements and non-proliferation treaties started to gain greater momentum, the U.S. and Russia cut back on stockpiles while new countries with nuclear weapons started to pop up.

CountryTotal Warheads (2021)% of Total
🇷🇺 Russia6,25747.7%
🇺🇸 U.S.5,55042.3%
🇨🇳 China3502.67%
🇫🇷 France2902.21%
🇬🇧 UK2251.71%
🇵🇰 Pakistan1651.26%
🇮🇳 India1601.22%
🇮🇱 Israel900.69%
🇰🇵 North Korea450.34%

Despite reducing their stockpiles significantly since the end of the Cold War, Russia and the U.S. still own around 90% of all nuclear warheads in the world.

Far behind them are China and France, which started testing nuclear weapons in 1964 and 1960 respectively. The UK has the fifth-most nuclear weapons today, though it was the third country in the world to develop them after the U.S. and Russia in 1952.

The countries with fewer than 200 nuclear weapons are regional rivals India and Pakistan, which first tested nuclear weapons in the 1970s, and North Korea, which began to operate uranium fabrication plants and conduct explosive tests in the 1980s.

Israel is also estimated to have fewer than 200 nuclear weapons, and reports have its weapons program dating back to the 1960s. However, the country has never confirmed or announced its nuclear capabilities.

Countries With Nuclear Weapons, by Warhead Status

Though the world has 13,132 nuclear weapons, that doesn’t mean they’re all ready to fire.

Weapons (or “warheads”) are delivered by missile, and countries don’t keep all of their nuclear warheads primed for use. The estimation of nuclear stockpiles also clarifies whether warheads are considered deployed, reserved, or retired:

  • Deployed warheads are deployed on intercontinental missiles, at heavy bomber bases, and on bases with operational short-range delivery systems.
  • Reserve warheads are in storage and not deployed on launchers.
  • Retired warheads are still intact but in queue for dismantlement.
CountryDeployed WarheadsReserve WarheadsRetired Warheads
🇷🇺 Russia1,6002,8971,760
🇺🇸 U.S.1,8002,0001,750
🇨🇳 China03500
🇫🇷 France280100
🇬🇧 UK1201050
🇵🇰 Pakistan01650
🇮🇳 India01600
🇮🇱 Israel0900
🇰🇵 North Korea0450

Only four countries have officially deployed warheads, while the majority of the world’s nuclear stockpile is in reserve. This is partially due to estimates ranging from relatively transparent in the case of the U.S. to opaque and uncertain for countries like China and North Korea.

But some countries are expected to further bolster their stockpiles. The UK government announced it would increase its stockpile to no more than 260 warheads, and U.S. intelligence expects China, India, and Pakistan to increase their stockpiles.

Though the world’s nuclear stockpile will likely continue dwindling on account of U.S. and Russia retirements, the 2021 landscape of countries with nuclear weapons shows that proliferation is still underway.

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