Posts tagged with commodities

The population of Asia in 1500 was five times as big as that of Western Europe (284 million compared with 57 million), and the ratio was about the same in 1600. It was a very large market with a network of Asian traders operating between East Africa and India, and from Eastern India to Indonesia. East of the straits of Malacca,
image
trade was dominated by China. Indian ships were not sturdy enough to withstand the typhoons of the China sea, and not adequately armed to deal with pirate activity off the China coast….

The Portuguese displaced Asian traders who had supplied spices to Red Sea and Persian Gulf ports
image
for onward sale to Venetian, Genoese and Catalan traders. But this was only a fraction, perhaps a quarter, of Asian trade in one group of commodities. In addition there was trade within Asian waters in textiles, porcelain, precious metals, carpets, perfume, jewellery, horses, timber, salt, raw silk, gold, silver, medicinal herbs and many other commodities.

Hence, the spice trade was not the only trading opportunity for the Portuguese, or for the other later European traders (Dutch, British, French and others) who followed. Silk and porcelain played an increased role, and in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, cotton textiles and tea became very important. There were possibilities of participating in intra–Asian trade as well. In the 1550s to the 1630s this kind of trade between China and Japan was a particularly profitable source of income for Portugal.

Angus Maddison / OECD

(Source: theworldeconomy.org)




via n-morgan:

they’re facing each other in court over a rebranding accusation. They’re locked in a legal and public relations fight in the United States over a plan to change the name of the toxic and healthy sweeter, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS).




  • Spain produces 4 times as much olive oil as Italy.
  • Price of a tonne of olive oil has halved over the aught’s.




Construction laborer Yi Jichun has never heard of Illinois or Iowa. But the migrant worker’s favorite comfort food comes straight out of the U.S. Midwest: soybean oil.

The world’s biggest consumers of edible oils, Chinese households have developed a taste for the stuff that would make a county fair fry cook proud. Be it a simple stir-fry, poached fish or deep-fried pork ribs, many Chinese diners love their grub covered in an oily sheen. Jugs of the golden liquid make popular gifts for Chinese New Year.

"Without the oil, it would taste too plain,” Yi said as he tucked into a lunch of sliced cucumbers and chicken drumsticks slathered with grease. “I wouldn’t want to finish it.”




"600 million Chinese living on $600/year, and they need to get those people to $2000/year"




These charts are undeniably beautiful, but they violate Tufte principles 1, 4, 7, 10, 11, 12.

Charts can look great but E Tufte says we should let the data do the talking, rather than the design. Adding some sparkle to the data is “wrong” or at least, Tufte-wrong, for data-graphics.

Here it seems like the talented artist has tried to “add some sparkle and theme” to “boring numbers” — rather than accentuating what’s exciting about the numbers themselves. To my way of thinking, if the message the numbers are telling you is interesting, then that makes the numbers worth looking at.

  • Did you say I could get a 25% raise?!
  • Did you say people are 30% taller than they were 250 years ago?
  • Did you say a 19% chance of rain on our wedding today? Or 90%?
  • Did you say the cost of electricity is one-one-hundredth of what it was 90 years ago?
  • Did you say my heating bill is double what it needs to be if I insulated better?
  • A man and a mouse are only one order of magnitude apart?
  • I could commute across America on a bike if I were two orders of magnitude faster?
  • Did you say that 99% of the people own 1% of the wealth? Or was it 99.999% of the people owning .000001% of the wealth? Or both? Wait, these numbers are actually crucial to the story!

Of course it’s no surprise that most people think cifras son aburridas — since their main memory of figures is through boring maths class, rather than as integral elements of a story.

What it’s talking about:

As in the wieners I drew, it’s not easy to make the logically beautiful look visually beautiful.

(Source: softwareadvice.com)










One night in the winter of 1907, at what we have always called “the home place” in Henry County, Kentucky, my father, then six years old, sat with his older brother and listened as their parents spoke of the uses they would have for the money from their 1906 tobacco crop. The crop was to be sold at auction in Louisville on the next day.

They would have been sitting in the light of a kerosene lamp, close to the stove, warming themselves before bedtime. They were not wealthy people…. [T]here would have been interest to pay, there would have been other debts. The depression of the 1890s would have left them burdened. Perhaps, after the income from the crop had paid their obligations, there would be some money that they could spend as they chose. At around two o’clock the next morning, my father was wakened by a horse’s shod hooves on the stones of the driveway. His father was leaving to catch the train to see the crop sold.

He came home that evening, as my father later would put it, “without a dime.” After the crop had paid its transportation to market and the commission on its sale, there was nothing left. Thus began my father’s lifelong advocacy, later my brother’s and my own, and now my daughter’s and my son’s, for small farmers and for land-conserving economies.

The economic hardship of my family and of many others, a century ago, was caused by a monopoly, the American Tobacco Company, which had eliminated all competitors and thus was able to reduce as it pleased the prices it paid to farmers. The American Tobacco Company was the work of James B. Duke of Durham, North Carolina, and New York City, who, disregarding any other consideration, followed a capitalist logic to absolute control of his industry and, incidentally, of the economic fate of thousands of families such as my own.

Because I have never separated myself from my home neighborhood, I cannot identify myself to myself apart from it. I am fairly literally flesh of its flesh. It is present in me, and to me, wherever I go. This undoubtedly accounts for my sense of shock when, on my first visit to Duke University, and by surprise, I came face-to-face with James B. Duke in his dignity, his glory perhaps, as the founder of that university. He stands imperially in bronze in front of a Methodist chapel aspiring to be a cathedral. He holds between two fingers of his left hand a bronze cigar. On one side of his pedestal is the legend: INDUSTRIALIST. On the other side is another single word: PHILANTHROPIST. The man thus commemorated seemed to me terrifyingly ignorant, even terrifyingly innocent, of the connection between his industry and his philanthropy. But I did know the connection. I felt it instantly and physically. The connection was my grandparents and thousands of others more or less like them. If you can appropriate for little or nothing the work and hope of enough such farmers, then you may dispense the grand charity of “philanthropy.”

Wendell E. Berry

(Source: neh.gov)




David Hale laying out the basic facts, in one minute each, on:

  1. US housing demand
  2. developing-country demand for automobiles
  3. volatility in agricultural prices

Did you know?

  • Americans burn down 400,000 houses every year.
  • $7 trillion wealth loss for Americans from house price declines.

(Source: openmarkets.cmegroup.com)




Derivatives contracts allow you to make bets on an asset without owning it. Like a side bet. I don’t have to own, watch, or like the Dallas Cowboys to bet on their success / failure.

You can bet on a company by buying its stock, or you can bet someone that it will go up. The latter is a derivative contract. Today the $$$ value of side bets exceeds the trading in original securities by a factor of 40.

For example there is $800 million worth of wheat (3 million metric tonnes) in the world — or at least that’s this year’s production of hard red winter wheat #1, ordinary protein.

But on the Chicago Board of Trade alone there were 22 million bets this year, betting about those 3 million MT.

Supposedly there are $1 quadrillion worth of derivatives contracts being traded today.

People talk about it like it’s a bad thing — but it’s neither good nor bad, by itself. It’s scary for regulators because they can barely measure, much less control, what people are doing with their money. They worry about systemic collapse on the one hand, if people make correlated mistakes — but on the other hand, if they over-regulate then they will choke off freedom of property.




The diction is pretty bad in this book, and (thumbs down) the preface is by Nassim Taleb.  Apparently Hélyette Geman was his thesis advisor, and now he’s surpassed her in fame.
Despite the poor writing style, this book has lots of useful info.  The first half of the book is full of Itō calculus and other Black-Scholes voodoo math.  The second half talks about many, many commodity markets—agricultural, oil & gas, metals, even the budding emissions markets.
Book was finished in 2005 and it feels a little dated—but not too dated.
I look forward to reading more of it.

The diction is pretty bad in this book, and (thumbs down) the preface is by Nassim Taleb.  Apparently Hélyette Geman was his thesis advisor, and now he’s surpassed her in fame.

Despite the poor writing style, this book has lots of useful info.  The first half of the book is full of Itō calculus and other Black-Scholes voodoo math.  The second half talks about many, many commodity markets—agricultural, oil & gas, metals, even the budding emissions markets.

Book was finished in 2005 and it feels a little dated—but not too dated.

I look forward to reading more of it.