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My view on what's going on in the financial markets and the global economy, and a few other things that might interest me from time to time.

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Happy new year: 10 things you might want to know as 2020 ends

To happily see off 2020 and welcome in 2021, I have included 10 interesting “factoids” in this article regarding the world today and the headline performance of markets in 2020. These interesting facts acknowledge the end of the “year of the pandemic” as we put 2020 behind and focus on a brighter future for the world in 2021. I wish my readers a happy, successful and prosperous 2021, and thank you again for reading my articles, and especially for the comments and feedback.

1. The population of the world is now 7.84 billion and is increasing quickly – see The top five most populous countries in the world, including their percent of total global population, are listed in the table below.

If you want to read more about population and demographic trends, see this article that I wrote in “Dinner Table Economics: Global Population”.

2. Global GDP in 2019 was $87.8 trillion (equivalent), according to The World Bank. The COVID-19 pandemic is expected to cause global GDP to decrease 4.6%, to $83.8 trillion (equivalent) in 2020, according to the World Economic Outlook released by the IMF in October 2020. The top five countries by GDP in 2020 are expected to be as follows:

The good news is that 2021 should see a recovery, with the IMF projecting an increase in GDP of 5.2%. You can learn more about GDP in an article in that you can find here.

3. The world’s area is 197 million square miles (509.6 million square kms), of which roughly 71% is water and 29% is land. The top 5 largest countries by area according to are listed below.

4. The very reliable Pew Institute provides a breakdown of number of people by religious affiliation albeit it is five years old. Here’s what it looks like:

5. The dominant currency used in international trade is the US Dollar, followed by the Euro, the Japanese Yen, the Great British Pound, the Canadian Dollar and the Swiss Franc (source: As far as forex trading, an estimated 90% of all forex trading involves the US Dollar, and 40% of the world’s debt is denominated in US Dollars, the world’s reserve currency. Although the US Dollar is the world’s reserve currency, it has been one of the worst performing currencies this year, losing 6.7% of its value against a basket (US Dollar/USDX index) since the end of 2019.

6. Returns of major developed stock market indices, China and the MSCI Emerging Markets index in 2020 were as follows:

The S&P 500 was the best performer of these indices in 2020, nudging out he Nikkei 225 (Japan) and the MSCI EM index. The return in the Shanghai Composite index was also not bad at 13.9%. Europe was the laggard, with the FTSE 100 (UK) being the worst performer of the year by a rather wide margin. The five year returns have been stellar in the S&P 500 and the MSCI EM index, and not bad in the Nikkei 225. It is almost certain that we will see a mean reversion at some point as value markets including Europe (FTSE 100 and STOXX 600) – which gained momentum in the 4Q2020 – could shine in 2021.

7. 10-year government bond yields at the end of 2019 and 2020 were as follows:

The decline in yields (aside from Japan, a special case) was indicative of the massive amounts of incremental quantitative easing employed by the Fed, ECB and BoE to address the pandemic. The BoJ continued with its yield control holding the 10-year JGB at around 0%. In an effort to simulate growth, rates in Europe are negative and rates in Japan are at/around 0%.

8. Global oil demand averaged 100.23 million barrels/day in 2019 and fell to 92.38 million barrels/day in 2020 because of the global recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration in their most recent report that you can find here. As you might recall, it was a topsy-turvy year for oil prices, with the price even going negative on a bizarre day in April during the early stages of the pandemic. It’s amazing given the context that oil only closed down around 21% (WTI Crude) and 25% (Brent) this year, at $48.30/bbl (WTI) and $51.55/bbl (Brent). If you want to read more about oil in, see “Texas Tea”: Oil.

9. The price of gold and silver at the end of 2020 was $1,896.97/oz (+24.8% YtD) and $26.31/oz (+47.6% YtD), respectively, both showing nice gains along with most other financial assets for the year. With these sorts of returns, the ratio of the price of gold-to-silver declined from 85.2 at the end of 2019 to 72.1 at the end of this year. For context, according to Investopedia, the average gold-silver ratio in the 20th century was 47:1, and the range during this century up until mid-2018 was 50:1 to 70:1, with the ratio peaking at 105:1 in April (2020) as investors rushed to buy gold as a “safe haven” asset. Since then, the ratio has reverted down to a more normal level based on history. I wrote an article in 2Q2020 on gold in “Yellow Dust” (gold).

10. Total cases and deaths globally related to COVID-19 in 2020, as reported by Johns Hopkins University, were 83.1 million and 1.8 million, respectively. The top five countries by cases have been the U.S. (19.8m cases/344k deaths), India (10.3m cases/149k deaths), Brazil (7.6m cases/194k deaths), Russia (3.1m cases/56k deaths) and France (2.7m cases/65k deaths). The table below shows the progression of CV19 cases and deaths globally by month.

Thanks once again for your patronage in 2020, and here’s wishing you a happy 2021 and the end of COVID-19! By the way, please subscribe, and tell your friends about my blog. You can also follow on Twitter here.

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