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Visualizing the Power of Gold Versus Currencies

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The Power of Gold Versus Currencies

The Power of Gold Versus Currencies

Since the gold standard was abandoned in 1971, the relationship in value between currencies and gold has moved in only one direction: down.

At that time, U.S. President Richard Nixon suspended the convertibility of the dollar into gold, effectively bringing the Bretton Woods system to an end.

Today’s visualization comes from the In Gold We Trust report, and it shows that over the last 40 years, the purchasing power of the world’s most popular currencies have declined significantly against the precious metal.

Turbulent Years

In the first decade after the gold standard was abandoned, the international monetary system was seriously shaken. Several U.S. recessions, coupled with international conflicts and high price inflation put the world’s reserve currency under enormous pressure.

During the 1973-74 oil crisis the price of gold rose 65%. In 1978, U.S. bonds had to be issued in the hard currencies of the Swiss franc and the German mark–the so-called Carter bonds.

The next decade saw the rehabilitation of the dollar through a highly restrictive monetary policy run by the Federal Reserve that led to sky-high interest rates. The trend continued with the fall of the communist Eastern Bloc in the early 1990s.

The Erosion of Purchasing Power is Accelerating

Gold is still the universal reserve asset to which central banks, investors, and private individuals return in times of crisis. Since 1971, the average annual growth rate of the metal price in U.S. dollars is just over 10%. Since the Euro was introduced in 1999, the gold price in EUR has risen by 356%, or on average 7.8% per year.

Unsurprisingly, over the last 40 years, the best performing G-10 currency was the Swiss franc, largely due to its close relationship with gold. The Swiss National Bank has one of the largest reserves worldwide.

CountryGold Reserve (Tonnes)
Value (US$ billions)
🇺🇸 United States8,133.46$493.6
🇩🇪 Germany3,362.45$204.1
🇮🇹 Italy2,451.84 $148.8
🇫🇷 France2,436.19$147.8
🇷🇺 Russia2,298.53$139.5
🇨🇳 China1,948.31$118.2
🇨🇭 Switzerland1,040.00$63.1
🇯🇵 Japan765.22$46.4
🇮🇳 India676.64$41.1
🇳🇱 Netherlands612.45$37.2

Despite significant corrections, gold was able to outperform virtually every other asset class and above all, every other currency between 2001 and 2019.

Gold breakout

Amid the turmoil brought about by Covid-19, investors again increased their exposure to gold. In August, the metal price surpassed $2,000 per ounce for the first time ever.

As political and economic tensions tend to endure over the next decades, so does gold’s role as an anchor during uncertain times.

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Explained: India’s Gold Demand During Diwali

Why do Indians buy gold during Diwali?

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india's gold demand during diwali

India’s Gold Demand During Diwali

In India, gold’s significance goes far beyond investment and jewelry. The yellow metal is woven into India’s cultural history and is revered by a population of over 1.3 billion.

India is one of the largest markets for gold consumption, with jewelry, bars, and coins accounting for the bulk of annual demand. Indian gold demand typically peaks between October and December on the back of Diwali, the festival of lights, followed by thousands of weddings.

But why do Indians buy gold during Diwali?

Gold’s Significance During Diwali

Indians consider it auspicious to purchase gold—a symbol of wealth, purity, and prosperity—on many festive occasions, and Diwali is the biggest one of them.

Diwali is a five-day festival that celebrates the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness, based on Hindu mythology. For many Indians, this festival is associated with welcoming good luck, positivity, and prosperity.

People often dedicate gold purchases during Diwali to deities, especially Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. Gold is also a popular festive and wedding gift at this time of the year.

India’s Record Gold Demand in Diwali 2021

India’s gold consumption in the second half of every year is typically higher than in the first half, coinciding with Diwali in October (beginning of Q4), according to data from the World Gold Council.

YearGold Jewelry, Bar, and Coin Demand
(tonnes)
YoY % Change
H1 2010447N/A
H2 2010555N/A
H1 201159032.1%
H2 2011384-30.8%
H1 2012404-31.5%
H2 201251032.7%
H1 201355737.9%
H2 2013402-21.3%
H1 2014370-33.5%
H2 201446315.3%
H1 2015350-5.5%
H2 20155079.5%
H1 2016229-34.5%
H2 2016437-13.9%
H1 201736358.4%
H2 2017408-6.6%
H1 2018341-6.2%
H2 20184202.9%
H1 20193729.2%
H2 2019318-24.2%
H1 2020166-55.5%
H2 2020281-11.8%
H1 202128572.3%
H2 202151282.3%
H1 20223067.3%

Following a significant drop in demand in 2020, Indians bought a record amount of gold jewelry in Q4 2021 at 265 tonnes, worth $15.3 billion at the time. Overall, gold jewelry, bar, and coin demand in H2 2021 saw an 82% increase year-over-year.

This increase was largely driven by the festive season and pent-up demand from subdued celebrations and consumption in 2020. As of the first half of 2022, gold demand was up 7.3% relative to 2021.

With Diwali celebrations in full swing, will India see another record quarter for gold demand? It remains to be seen, with gold’s festive tailwinds likely to meet economic headwinds in the form of uncertainty and higher import duties.

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All the Metals We Mined in 2021 in One Visualization

See the 2.8 billion tonnes of metals mined in 2021.

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all the metals mined in 2021

All the Metals We Mined in 2021

“If you can’t grow it, you have to mine it” is a famous saying that encapsulates the importance of minerals and metals in the modern world.

From every building we enter to every device we use, virtually everything around us contains some amount of metal.

The above infographic visualizes all 2.8 billion tonnes of metals mined in 2021 and highlights each metal’s largest end-use using data from the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

Why Do We Mine So Much Iron Ore?

Iron ore accounted for 93% of the metals mined in 2021, with 2.6 billion tonnes extracted from the ground. It’s important to note that this is ore production, which is typically higher than metal production since metals are extracted and refined from ores.

Metal/Ore2021 Mine Production (tonnes)% of Total
Iron ore2,600,000,00093.4%
Industrial metals181,579,8926.5%
Technology and precious metals1,474,8890.05%
Total2,783,054,781100%

With 98% of it converted into pig iron to make steel, iron ore is ubiquitous in our lives. Steel made from iron ore is used in construction, transportation, and household appliances, and it’s likely that you encounter something made out of it every day, especially if you live in a city.

Due to its key role in building infrastructure, iron ore is one of the most important materials supporting urbanization and economic growth.

Industrial Metals

Industrial metals are largely used in steelmaking, construction, chemical manufacturing, and as alloying agents. In 2021, the world mined over 181 million tonnes of these metals.

Industrial Metals2021 Mine Production (tonnes)% of Total
Aluminum*68,000,00037.4%
Chromium41,000,00022.6%
Copper21,000,00011.6%
Manganese20,000,00011.0%
Zinc13,000,0007.2%
Titanium (mineral concentrates)9,000,0005.0%
Lead4,300,0002.4%
Nickel2,700,0001.5%
Zirconium Minerals (Zircon)1,200,0000.7%
Magnesium*950,0000.5%
Strontium360,0000.2%
Uranium48,3320.03%
Bismuth*19,0000.01%
Mercury2,3000.001%
Beryllium2600.0001%
Total181,579,892100.0%

*Represents refinery/smelter production.

Aluminum accounted for nearly 40% of industrial metal production in 2021. China was by far the largest aluminum producer, making up more than half of global production. The construction industry uses roughly 25% of annually produced aluminum, with 23% going into transportation.

Chromium is a lesser-known metal with a key role in making stainless steel stainless. In fact, stainless steel is usually composed of 10% to 30% of chromium, enhancing its strength and corrosion resistance.

Copper, manganese, and zinc round out the top five industrial metals mined in 2021, each with its own unique properties and roles in the economy.

Technology and Precious Metals

Technology metals include those that are commonly used in technology and devices. Compared to industrial metals, these are usually mined on a smaller scale and could see faster consumption growth as the world adopts new technologies.

Technology and Precious Metals2021 Mine Production (tonnes)% of Total
Tin300,00020.3%
Molybdenum300,00020.3%
Rare Earth Oxides280,00019.0%
Cobalt170,00011.5%
Vanadium110,0007.5%
Lithium106,0007.2%
Tungsten79,0005.4%
Niobium75,0005.1%
Silver24,0001.6%
Cadmium24,0001.6%
Gold3,0000.2%
Tantalum2,1000.1%
Indium*9200.1%
Gallium4300.03%
Platinum Group Metals3800.03%
Rhenium590.004%
Total1,474,889100%

*Represents refinery/smelter production.

The major use of rhenium, one of the rarest metals, is in superalloys that are critical for engine turbine blades in aircraft and gas turbine engines. The petroleum industry uses it in rhenium-platinum catalysts to produce high-octane gasoline for vehicles.

In terms of growth, clean energy technology metals stand out. For example, lithium production has more than doubled since 2016 and is set to ride the boom in EV battery manufacturing. Over the same period, global rare earth production more than doubled, driven by the rising demand for magnets.

Indium is another interesting metal on this list. Most of it is used to make indium tin oxide, an important component of touchscreens, TV screens, and solar panels.

The Metal Mining Megatrend

The world’s material consumption has grown significantly over the last few decades, with growing economies and cities demanding more resources.

Global production of both iron ore and aluminum has more than tripled relative to the mid-1990s. Other metals, including copper and steel, have also seen significant consumption growth.

Today, economies are not only growing and urbanizing but also adopting mineral-intensive clean energy technologies, pointing towards further increases in metal production and consumption.

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