Mapping the World's Youngest and Oldest Countries
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Mapping the World’s Youngest and Oldest Countries

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Mapping the World’s Youngest and Oldest Countries

Country age demographics are determined by two key factors: fertility and mortality.

Throughout history, it was typical to see both birth and death rates at higher levels. But today, in most parts of the world, women are having fewer children, and innovations in healthcare and technology mean we are all living longer. The average person today lives to 72.6 years old, while the rate of births per woman has fallen to 2.5.

These trends have drastically altered the demographics of mature economies, resulting in a much older population. In many developing countries, however, births still outweigh deaths, resulting in populations that skew younger.

This visualization uses data from the World Bank to examine the countries with the highest shares of old and young people.

The Fountain of Youth

By 2030, the United Nations estimates there will be 1.3 billion people on the planet between the ages of 15-24. Proving to be a fountain of youth globally, the continent of Africa boasts the top 10 countries with the largest shares of young people in the world.

Somalia, Zambia, and the DRC are just a few to crack the top 10 list. The youngest country in the world is Niger, where almost 50% of the population is below the age of 15.

Here’s a full list of global countries, sorted by percentage of population under 15 years old:

CountryShare of Population Younger Than 15 (% of total, 2019)
🇳🇪 Niger49.8%
🇲🇱 Mali47.3%
🇹🇩 Chad46.8%
🇦🇴 Angola46.6%
🇺🇬 Uganda46.5%
🇸🇴 Somalia46.4%
🇨🇩 Congo, Dem. Rep.46.0%
🇧🇮 Burundi45.4%
🇧🇫 Burkina Faso44.7%
🇿🇲 Zambia44.5%
🇲🇿 Mozambique44.4%
🇬🇲 The Gambia44.1%
🇹🇿 Tanzania43.8%
🇳🇬 Nigeria43.7%
🇲🇼 Malawi43.5%
🇬🇳 Guinea43.4%
🇸🇳 Senegal42.8%
🇦🇫 Afghanistan42.5%
🇨🇲 Cameroon42.4%
🇧🇯 Benin42.2%
🇬🇼 Guinea-Bissau42.2%
🇿🇼 Zimbabwe42.2%
🇸🇹 Sao Tome and Principe42.1%
🇨🇮 Cote d'Ivoire41.7%
🇸🇸 South Sudan41.6%
🇨🇬 Congo41.5%
🇹🇬 Togo41.0%
🇱🇷 Liberia40.8%
🇸🇱 Sierra Leone40.7%
🇲🇬 Madagascar40.4%
🇪🇹 Ethiopia40.3%
🇸🇩 Sudan40.2%
🇸🇧 Solomon Islands40.1%
🇲🇷 Mauritania39.9%
🇷🇼 Rwanda39.8%
🇰🇲 Comoros39.3%
🇰🇪 Kenya39.2%
🇾🇪 Yemen39.2%
🇻🇺 Vanuatu38.7%
🇮🇶 Iraq38.0%
🇼🇸 Samoa37.9%
🇸🇿 Eswatini37.8%
🇬🇭 Ghana37.4%
🇹🇱 Timor-Leste37.3%
🇬🇦 Gabon37.2%
🇹🇯 Tajikistan37.1%
🇬🇶 Equatorial Guinea37.0%
🇳🇦 Namibia36.9%
🇰🇮 Kiribati35.8%
🇵🇬 Papua New Guinea35.5%
🇵🇰 Pakistan35.1%
🇹🇴Tonga35.1%
🇬🇹 Guatemala33.9%
🇧🇼 Botswana33.8%
🇪🇬 Egypt33.8%
🇯🇴 Jordan33.6%
🇭🇹 Haiti32.9%
🇰🇬 Kyrgyzstan32.5%
🇱🇸 Lesotho32.5%
🇱🇦 Laos32.3%
🇫🇲 Micronesia31.5%
🇭🇳 Honduras31.2%
🇰🇭 Cambodia31.1%
🇸🇾 Syria31.1%
🇲🇳 Mongolia30.8%
🇹🇲 Turkmenistan30.8%
🇧🇴 Bolivia30.6%
🇩🇿 Algeria30.6%
🇵🇭 Philippines30.5%
🇳🇮 Nicaragua29.9%
🇧🇿 Belize29.7%
🇳🇵 Nepal29.6%
🇫🇯 Fiji29.3%
🇩🇯 Djibouti29.2%
🇵🇾 Paraguay29.2%
🇿🇦 South Africa29.0%
🇰🇿 Kazakhstan28.9%
🇺🇿 Uzbekistan28.8%
🇨🇻 Cape Verde28.4%
🇱🇾 Libya28.1%
🇬🇾 Guyana27.9%
🇮🇱 Israel27.9%
🇩🇴 Dominican Republic27.7%
🇪🇨 Ecuador27.7%
🇻🇪 Venezuela27.4%
🇧🇩 Bangladesh27.2%
🇲🇦 Morocco27.0%
🇸🇻 El Salvador26.9%
🇸🇷 Suriname26.9%
🇵🇦 Panama26.8%
🇮🇳 India26.6%
🇮🇩 Indonesia26.2%
🇲🇽 Mexico26.2%
🇲🇲 Myanmar25.9%
🇱🇧 Lebanon25.6%
🇧🇹 Bhutan25.3%
🇵🇪 Peru25.3%
🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia24.9%
🇮🇷 Iran24.7%
🇦🇷 Argentina24.6%
🇹🇷 Turkey24.3%
🇹🇳 Tunisia24.2%
🇬🇺 Guam24.1%
🇱🇰 Sri Lanka24.0%
🇬🇩 Grenada23.7%
🇲🇾 Malaysia23.7%
🇸🇨 Seychelles23.7%
🇯🇲 Jamaica23.5%
🇦🇿Azerbaijan23.4%
🇻🇳 Vietnam23.2%
🇧🇳 Brunei 22.6%
🇨🇴 Colombia22.6%
🇵🇫 French Polynesia22.6%
🇳🇨 New Caledonia22.4%
🇴🇲 Oman22.4%
🇻🇨 St. Vincent and the Grenadines22.2%
🇧🇸 Bahamas22.1%
🇦🇬 Antigua and Barbuda22.0%
🇰🇼 Kuwait21.6%
🇮🇪 Ireland21.2%
🇨🇷 Costa Rica21.1%
🇧🇷 Brazil21.0%
🇦🇲 Armenia20.8%
🇺🇾 Uruguay20.5%
🇹🇹 Trinidad and Tobago20.3%
🇬🇪 Georgia20.0%
🇰🇵 North Korea20.0%
🇲🇻 Maldives19.9%
🇮🇸 Iceland19.6%
🇳🇿 New Zealand19.6%
🇨🇱 Chile19.5%
🇻🇮 U.S. Virgin Islands19.5%
🇦🇺 Australia19.3%
🇧🇭 Bahrain18.7%
🇨🇼 Curacao18.5%
🇺🇸 United States18.5%
🇱🇨 St. Lucia18.2%
🇲🇪 Montenegro18.2%
🇷🇺 Russia18.2%
🇨🇳 China17.8%
🇫🇷 France17.8%
🇬🇧 United Kingdom17.7%
🇦🇼 Aruba17.6%
🇸🇪 Sweden17.6%
🇦🇱 Albania17.4%
🇳🇴 Norway17.4%
🇲🇺 Mauritius17.3%
🇧🇪 Belgium17.1%
🇧🇧 Barbados17.1%
🇧🇾 Belarus17.0%
🇹🇭 Thailand16.8%
🇨🇾 Cyprus16.7%
🇪🇪 Estonia16.5%
🇩🇰 Denmark16.4%
🇲🇰 North Macedonia16.4%
🇱🇻 Latvia16.3%
🇵🇷 Puerto Rico16.3%
🇨🇺 Cuba16.0%
🇫🇮 Finland16.0%
🇲🇩 Moldova15.9%
🇳🇱 Netherlands15.9%
🇺🇦 Ukraine15.9%
🇨🇦 Canada15.8%
🇨🇿 Czech Republic15.7%
🇱🇺 Luxembourg15.7%
🇷🇴 Romania15.6%
🇷🇸 Serbia15.5%
🇸🇰 Slovakia15.5%
🇵🇱 Poland15.2%
Channel Islands15.1%
🇱🇹 Lithuania15.1%
🇸🇮 Slovenia15.1%
🇨🇭 Switzerland14.9%
🇦🇪 United Arab Emirates14.7%
🇧🇬 Bulgaria14.7%
🇧🇦 Bosnia and Herzegovina14.7%
🇪🇸 Spain14.6%
🇭🇷 Croatia14.6%
🇦🇹 Austria14.4%
🇭🇺 Hungary14.4%
🇲🇹 Malta14.3%
🇲🇴 Macao SAR, China14.0%
🇬🇷 Greece13.9%
🇩🇪 Germany13.8%
🇶🇦 Qatar13.6%
🇵🇹 Portugal13.3%
🇮🇹 Italy13.2%
🇰🇷 South Korea12.7%
🇯🇵 Japan12.6%
🇭🇰 Hong Kong SAR, China12.3%
🇸🇬 Singapore12.3%

Young countries have significant opportunities ahead of them. A younger population means a larger upcoming workforce and more opportunities for innovation and economic growth.

While domestic markets in Africa grow in terms of labor supply, innovation, and potential consumers, there are also challenges that arise in these countries. Corruption, political instability and unemployment, particularly in Africa, are all potential barriers to prosperity for the continent’s Gen Z population.

Populations Skewing Older

The world’s oldest country is Japan, where 28% of the population is older than 65. However, it’s an anomaly—the rest of the oldest countries in the top 10 are all in Europe.

Globally, it’s the 65+ age group that is growing the fastest. According to the same UN estimates, it is predicted that by 2050 that one in six people will be over 65 years old.

Here’s a full list of global countries, sorted by percentage of population over 65 years old:

CountryShare of Population Older Than 65 (% of total, 2019)
🇯🇵 Japan28.0%
🇮🇹 Italy23.0%
🇵🇹 Portugal22.4%
🇫🇮 Finland22.1%
🇬🇷 Greece21.9%
🇩🇪 Germany21.5%
🇧🇬 Bulgaria21.2%
🇭🇷 Croatia20.8%
🇲🇹 Malta20.8%
🇫🇷 France20.3%
🇱🇻 Latvia20.3%
🇸🇪 Sweden20.1%
🇸🇮 Slovenia20.1%
🇱🇹 Lithuania20.1%
🇪🇪 Estonia19.9%
🇩🇰 Denmark19.9%
🇻🇮 U.S. Virgin Islands 19.8%
🇨🇿 Czech Republic19.8%
🇵🇷 Puerto Rico19.6%
🇭🇺 Hungary19.6%
🇪🇸 Spain19.6%
🇳🇱 Netherlands19.6%
🇦🇹 Austria19.0%
🇧🇪 Belgium19.0%
🇨🇭 Switzerland18.8%
🇷🇴 Romania18.7%
🇷🇸 Serbia18.7%
🇬🇧 United Kingdom18.5%
🇵🇱 Poland18.1%
🇨🇦 Canada17.6%
Channel Islands17.6%
🇭🇰 Hong Kong SAR, China17.4%
🇳🇴 Norway17.2%
🇧🇦 Bosnia and Herzegovina17.2%
🇨🇼 Curaçao17.1%
🇺🇦 Ukraine16.7%
🇧🇧 Barbados16.2%
🇺🇸 United States16.2%
🇸🇰 Slovakia16.1%
🇳🇿 New Zealand15.9%
🇦🇺 Australia15.9%
🇨🇺 Cuba15.5%
🇲🇪 Montenegro15.3%
🇧🇾 Belarus15.2%
🇮🇸 Iceland15.1%
🇷🇺 Russia15.0%
🇬🇪 Georgia15.0%
🇰🇷 South Korea15.0%
🇺🇾 Uruguay14.9%
🇱🇺 Luxembourg14.2%
🇮🇪 Ireland14.2%
🇦🇱 Albania14.2%
🇲🇰 North Macedonia14.0%
🇦🇼 Aruba14.0%
🇨🇾 Cyprus14.0%
🇹🇭 Thailand12.4%
🇸🇬 Singapore12.3%
🇮🇱 Israel12.2%
🇲🇩 Moldova12.0%
🇲🇺 Mauritius11.9%
🇨🇱 Chile11.8%
🇦🇲 Armenia11.4%
🇨🇳 China11.4%
🇦🇷 Argentina11.2%
🇲🇴 Macao SAR, China11.2%
🇹🇹 Trinidad and Tobago11.1%
🇱🇰 Sri Lanka10.8%
🇬🇺 Guam10.1%
🇱🇨 St. Lucia10.0%
🇨🇷 Costa Rica9.8%
🇻🇨 St. Vincent and the Grenadines9.7%
🇬🇩 Grenada9.6%
🇳🇨 New Caledonia9.4%
🇰🇵 North Korea9.2%
🇧🇷 Brazil9.2%
🇦🇬 Antigua and Barbuda9.0%
🇯🇲 Jamaica8.9%
🇨🇴 Colombia8.7%
🇹🇷 Turkey8.7%
🇵🇫 French Polynesia8.6%
🇹🇳 Tunisia8.5%
🇸🇻 El Salvador8.4%
🇵🇪 Peru8.3%
🇵🇦 Panama8.3%
🇸🇨 Seychelles7.8%
🇰🇿 Kazakhstan7.6%
🇻🇪 Venezuela7.6%
🇻🇳 Vietnam7.5%
🇧🇸 Bahamas7.4%
🇲🇽 Mexico7.4%
🇪🇨 Ecuador7.3%
🇧🇴 Bolivia7.3%
🇲🇦 Morocco7.3%
🇩🇴 Dominican Republic7.2%
🇱🇧 Lebanon7.2%
🇸🇷 Suriname7.0%
🇲🇾 Malaysia6.9%
🇬🇾 Guyana6.7%
🇵🇾 Paraguay6.6%
🇩🇿 Algeria6.5%
🇦🇿 Azerbaijan6.4%
🇮🇳 India6.3%
🇮🇷 Iran6.3%
🇧🇹 Bhutan6.0%
🇮🇩 Indonesia6.0%
🇲🇲 Myanmar6.0%
🇹🇴 Tonga5.9%
🇳🇵 Nepal5.7%
🇫🇯 Fiji5.6%
🇳🇮 Nicaragua5.4%
🇿🇦 South Africa5.4%
🇵🇭 Philippines5.3%
🇪🇬 Egypt5.2%
🇧🇳 Brunei 5.2%
🇧🇩 Bangladesh5.1%
🇭🇹 Haiti5.0%
🇼🇸 Samoa4.9%
🇬🇹 Guatemala4.9%
🇱🇸 Lesotho4.9%
🇧🇿 Belize4.8%
🇭🇳 Honduras4.8%
🇰🇭 Cambodia4.7%
🇨🇻 Cape Verde4.6%
🇸🇾 Syria4.6%
🇩🇯 Djibouti4.6%
🇰🇬 Kyrgyzstan4.6%
🇺🇿 Uzbekistan4.5%
🇹🇲 Turkmenistan4.5%
🇱🇾 Libya4.4%
🇧🇼 Botswana4.3%
🇵🇰 Pakistan4.3%
🇹🇱 Timor-Leste4.2%
🇫🇲 Micronesia4.1%
🇲🇳 Mongolia4.1%
🇱🇦 Laos4.1%
🇰🇮 Kiribati4.0%
🇸🇿 Eswatini4.0%
🇯🇴 Jordan3.8%
🇲🇻 Maldives3.6%
🇸🇧 Solomon Islands3.6%
🇸🇩 Sudan3.6%
🇻🇺 Vanuatu3.6%
🇳🇦 Namibia3.6%
🇬🇦 Gabon3.5%
🇪🇹 Ethiopia3.5%
🇵🇬 Papua New Guinea3.5%
🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia3.4%
🇮🇶 Iraq3.3%
🇸🇸 South Sudan3.3%
🇱🇷 Liberia3.2%
🇧🇯 Benin3.2%
🇲🇷 Mauritania3.1%
🇸🇳 Senegal3.0%
🇬🇭 Ghana3.0%
🇹🇯 Tajikistan3.0%
🇰🇲 Comoros3.0%
🇲🇬 Madagascar3.0%
🇷🇼 Rwanda3.0%
🇨🇩 Democratic Republic of the Congo3.0%
🇿🇼 Zimbabwe2.9%
🇸🇹 Sao Tome and Principe2.9%
🇸🇱 Sierra Leone2.9%
🇬🇳 Guinea2.9%
🇾🇪 Yemen2.9%
🇸🇴 Somalia2.8%
🇹🇬 Togo2.8%
🇲🇿 Mozambique2.8%
🇨🇮 Cote d'Ivoire2.8%
🇬🇼 Guinea-Bissau2.8%
🇨🇫 Central African Republic2.8%
🇰🇼 Kuwait2.7%
🇳🇬 Nigeria2.7%
🇨🇲 Cameroon2.7%
🇨🇬 Congo2.7%
🇲🇼 Malawi2.6%
🇹🇿 Tanzania2.6%
🇦🇫 Afghanistan2.6%
🇳🇪 Niger2.5%
🇬🇲 The Gambia2.5%
🇧🇭 Bahrain2.5%
🇲🇱 Mali2.4%
🇹🇩 Chad2.4%
🇴🇲 Oman2.4%
🇬🇶 Equatorial Guinea2.4%
🇰🇪 Kenya2.4%
🇧🇫 Burkina Faso2.4%
🇧🇮 Burundi2.3%
🇦🇴 Angola2.1%
🇿🇲 Zambia2.1%
🇺🇬 Uganda1.9%
🇶🇦 Qatar1.5%
🇦🇪 United Arab Emirates1.1%

Fewer births, and a resulting older population, is a trend attributed to the changing lifestyles of women. For example, Japan’s fertility rate has fallen to less than 1.5 children per woman due to modern access to contraceptives and the prioritization of work over marriage and family life.

However, fewer young people also means a smaller workforce on the horizon and a shrinking domestic market. There is also a rising social cost of caring for the elderly, as longer lifespans have resulted in a higher prevalence of chronic diseases and an increasing inability to care for oneself. This can result in an increased tax burden on the diminishing younger, working population.

Another Perspective on the Data

Looking at the data from the opposite angle also reveals information about our world. Here’s a look at the countries with the lowest proportions of younger or older people.

youngest and oldest countries

Hong Kong and Singapore have some of the lowest fertility rates in the world (1.1), so it’s no surprise to see low numbers of children in their demographic data.

In a country like the United Arab Emirates, the majority of the population is made up of foreign workers, so the number of people in the 65+ age group is extremely low. In the coming decades though, the situation is expected to shift dramatically with one in every five Emiratis residing that age group by 2050.

The Big Picture

While each country has its own unique demographic make up, one thing is clear. As education and wealth levels rise around the world, fertility rates are dropping almost everywhere.

The trend of long life expectancies and fewer births is likely to continue, but young outliers will remain and they present immense economic potential.

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Markets

How the Top Cryptocurrencies Performed in 2021

Cryptocurrencies had a breakout year in 2021, providing plenty of volatility and strong returns across crypto’s various sectors.

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The Returns of Top Cryptocurrencies in 2021

2021 saw the crypto markets boom and mature, with different sectors flourishing and largely outperforming the market leader, bitcoin.

While bitcoin only managed to return 59.8% last year, the crypto sector’s total market cap grew by 187.5%, with many of the top coins offering four and even five-digit percentage returns.

2021 Crypto Market Roundup

Last year wasn’t just a breakout year for crypto in terms of returns, but also the growing infrastructure’s maturity and resulting decorrelation of individual crypto industries and coins.

Crypto’s infrastructure has developed significantly, and there are now many more onramps for people to buy altcoins that don’t require purchasing and using bitcoin in the process. As a result, many cryptocurrency prices were more dictated by the value and functionality of their protocol and applications rather than their correlation to bitcoin.

CryptocurrencyCategory2021 Returns
BitcoinCryptocurrency59.8%
EthereumSmart Contract Platform399.2%
Binance CoinExchange Token1,268.9%
SolanaSmart Contract Platform11,177.8%
CardanoSmart Contract Platform621.3%
XRPCryptocurrency277.8%
TerraSmart Contract Platform12,967.3%
AvalancheSmart Contract Platform3,334.8%
PolkadotSmart Contract Platform187.9%
DogecoinMeme Coin3,546.0%

Sources: TradingView, Binance, Uniswap, FTX, Bittrex

Bitcoin wasn’t the only cryptocurrency that didn’t manage to reach triple-digit returns in 2021. Litecoin and Bitcoin Cash also provided meagre double-digit percentage returns, as payment-focused cryptocurrencies were largely ignored for projects with smart contract capabilities.

Other older projects like Stellar Lumens (109%) and XRP (278%) provided triple-digit returns, with Cardano (621%) being the best performer of the old guard despite not managing to ship its smart contract functionality last year.

The Rise of the Ethereum Competitors

Ethereum greatly outpaced bitcoin in 2021, returning 399.2% as the popularity boom of NFTs and creation of DeFi 2.0 protocols like Olympus (OHM) expanded possible use-cases.

But with the rise of network activity, a 50% increase in transfers in 2021, Ethereum gas fees surged. From minimums of $20 for a single transaction, to NFT mint prices starting around $40 and going into the hundreds on congested network days, crypto’s retail crowd migrated to other smart contract platforms with lower fees.

Alternative budding smart contract platforms like Solana (11,178%), Avalanche (3,335%), and Fantom (13,207%) all had 4-5 digit percentage returns, as these protocols built out their own decentralized finance ecosystems and NFT markets.

With Ethereum set to merge onto the beacon chain this year, which uses proof of stake instead of proof of work, we’ll see if 2022 brings lower gas fees and retail’s return to Ethereum if the merge is successful.

Dog Coins Meme their Way to the Top

While many new cryptocurrencies with strong functionality and unique use-cases were rewarded with strong returns, it was memes that powered the greatest returns in cryptocurrencies this past year.

Dogecoin’s surge after Elon Musk’s “adoption” saw many other dog coins follow, with SHIB benefitting the most and returning an astounding 19.85 million percent.

But ever since Dogecoin’s run from $0.07 to a high of $0.74 in Q2 of last year, the original meme coin’s price has slowly bled -77% down to $0.17 at the time of writing. After the roller coaster ride of last year, 2022 started with a positive catalyst for Dogecoin holders as Elon Musk announced DOGE can be used to purchase Tesla merchandise.

Gamifying the Crypto Industry

The intersection between crypto, games, and the metaverse became more than just a pipe dream in 2021. Axie Infinity was the first crypto native game to successfully establish a play to earn structure that combines its native token (AXS) and in-game NFTs, becoming a sensation and source of income for many in the Philippines.

Other crypto gaming projects like Defi Kingdoms are putting recognizable game interfaces on decentralized finance applications, with the decentralized exchange becoming the town’s “marketplace” and yield farms being the “gardens” where yield is harvested. This fantasy aesthetic is more than just a new coat of paint, as the project with $1.04B of total value locked is developing an underlying play-to-earn game.

Along with gamification, 2021 saw crypto native and non-crypto developers put a big emphasis on the digital worlds or metaverses users will inhabit. Facebook’s name change to Meta resulted in the two prominent metaverse projects The Sandbox (SAND) and Decentraland (MANA) surge another few hundred percent to finish off the year at 16,261% and 4,104% returns respectively.

With so many eyes on the crypto sector after the 2021’s breakout year, we’ll see how developing U.S. regulation and changing macro conditions affect cryptocurrencies in 2022.

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Energy

The Periodic Table of Commodity Returns (2012-2021)

Energy fuels led the way as commodity prices surged in 2021, with only precious metals providing negative returns.

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The Periodic Table of Commodity Returns (2022 Edition)

For investors, 2021 was a year in which nearly every asset class finished in the green, with commodities providing some of the best returns.

The S&P Goldman Sachs Commodity Index (GSCI) was the third best-performing asset class in 2021, returning 37.1% and beating out real estate and all major equity indices.

This graphic from U.S. Global Investors tracks individual commodity returns over the past decade, ranking them based on their individual performance each year.

Commodity Prices Surge in 2021

After a strong performance from commodities (metals especially) in the year prior, 2021 was all about energy commodities.

The top three performers for 2021 were energy fuels, with coal providing the single best annual return of any commodity over the past 10 years at 160.6%. According to U.S. Global Investors, coal was also the least volatile commodity of 2021, meaning investors had a smooth ride as the fossil fuel surged in price.

Commodity2021 Returns
Coal160.61%
Crude Oil55.01%
Gas46.91%
Aluminum42.18%
Zinc31.53%
Nickel26.14%
Copper25.70%
Corn22.57%
Wheat20.34%
Lead18.32%
Gold-3.64%
Platinum-9.64%
Silver-11.72%
Palladium-22.21%

Source: U.S. Global Investors

The only commodities in the red this year were precious metals, which failed to stay positive despite rising inflation across goods and asset prices. Gold and silver had returns of -3.6% and -11.7% respectively, with platinum returning -9.6% and palladium, the worst performing commodity of 2021, at -22.2%.

Aside from the precious metals, every other commodity managed double-digit positive returns, with four commodities (crude oil, coal, aluminum, and wheat) having their best single-year performances of the past decade.

Energy Commodities Outperform as the World Reopens

The partial resumption of travel and the reopening of businesses in 2021 were both powerful catalysts that fueled the price rise of energy commodities.

After crude oil’s dip into negative prices in April 2020, black gold had a strong comeback in 2021 as it returned 55.01% while being the most volatile commodity of the year.

Natural gas prices also rose significantly (46.91%), with the UK and Europe’s natural gas prices rising even more as supply constraints came up against the winter demand surge.

Energy commodity returns 2021

Despite being the second worst performer of 2020 with the clean energy transition on the horizon, coal was 2021’s best commodity.

High electricity demand saw coal return in style, especially in China which accounts for one-third of global coal consumption.

Base Metals Beat out Precious Metals

2021 was a tale of two metals, as precious metals and base metals had opposing returns.

Copper, nickel, zinc, aluminum, and lead, all essential for the clean energy transition, kept up last year’s positive returns as the EV batteries and renewable energy technologies caught investors’ attention.

Demand for these energy metals looks set to continue in 2022, with Tesla having already signed a $1.5 billion deal for 75,000 tonnes of nickel with Talon Metals.

Metals price performance 2021

On the other end of the spectrum, precious metals simply sunk like a rock last year.

Investors turned to equities, real estate, and even cryptocurrencies to preserve and grow their investments, rather than the traditionally favorable gold (-3.64%) and silver (-11.72%). Platinum and palladium also lagged behind other commodities, only returning -9.64% and -22.21% respectively.

Grains Bring Steady Gains

In a year of over and underperformers, grains kept up their steady track record and notched their fifth year in a row of positive returns.

Both corn and wheat provided double-digit returns, with corn reaching eight-year highs and wheat reaching prices not seen in over nine years. Overall, these two grains followed 2021’s trend of increasing food prices, as the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s food price index reached a 10-year high, rising by 17.8% over the course of the year.

Grains price performance 2021

As inflation across commodities, assets, and consumer goods surged in 2021, investors will now be keeping a sharp eye for a pullback in 2022. We’ll have to wait and see whether or not the Fed’s plans to increase rates and taper asset purchases will manage to provide price stability in commodities.

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