Venezuela – What happened?

Once a wealthy country in the 1970s, Venezuela is now experiencing political turmoil and its citizens are living in poverty. With over 298 barrels of proven oil reserves, why is Venezuela, the country with the largest oil reserve in the world, the poorest performer in terms of GDP growth per capita? What happened to one of the richest countries in Latin America?

  1. It’s ongoing economic crisis

Venezuela is now in its fourth year of recession. With the economy shrinking, the price of goods keep increasing. The price for a dozen eggs is equivalent to US$150. So, this means devaluation of their currency, the Bolivar. To put it into perspective, one U.S. dollar was 100 bolivars in 2014. In 2016, one dollar got you 1,262 bolivars. On top of this, years of the excessive government spending and poorly managed government programs led Venezuela to experience its worst economic crisis in history.

  1. The currency split

Venezuela established three different exchange rate systems for the bolivar; one rate for “essential goods”, the other for “nonessential goods and another one for its citizens. The two primary rates overvalue the bolivar, and the black market values bolivar near worthless. The government has tried increasing the number of bolivars to tackle this problem, but the money in circulation isn’t enough.

  1. Venezuela is running out of cash and gold

Venezuela is struggling to pay its bills. It owes approximately US$15 billion while its central bank only has US$11.8 billion in reserves. The oil company, PDVSA (Petroleum of Venezuela), is pumping less oil and is at risk of defaulting. China used to come to Venezuela’s aid and loan it billions of dollars at a time. But even China has stopped giving out cash. Interestingly, most of Venezuela’s reserves are in the form of gold and has being making debt repayments in the form of gold bars.

  1. Its hottest commodity, oil, isn’t “hot” anymore

Venezuela has the world’s largest oil reserves, but the problem is that oil is the only commodity it has to offer. Ninety-five per cent of Venezuela’s revenue comes from exports, so if it doesn’t sell oil, the country hasn’t got much money to spend. Venezuela’s situation went downhill pretty quickly when oil prices plunged in 2014. It’s been struggling to recover ever since.

  1. Government control

The Venezuelan government enforced strict price controls on golds sold in supermarkets. It also stopped food importers to cease importing basically everything because they would have to sell their products for a major loss. In 2016, the government stopped enforcing price control. However, prices are still so high that Venezuelans can’t afford even the most basics supplies.

There are many factors that have contributed to Venezuela’s economic and political turmoil. The challenge for the country will be to escape the cycle it is stuck in, and that’s only if they can sort out the state of their government first. There won’t be a quick fix solution, it will be long and arduous journey for the country.

References:
Article 1
Article 2

What is Consumer Sentiment?

Believe it or not, your opinions count! Your views regarding the health of the economy, long-term economic growth and your personal financial situation play a role in shaping public policy, economic policy and stock markets. You are, essentially, an economic indicator, according to the University of Michigan. Feeling special now?

Consumer sentiment is a measurement of the overall health of the economy, determined by consumer opinion. It directly relates to the strength of consumer spending. The University of Michigan’s Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index (MSCI) is the most popular publications of consumer sentiment. American households are contacted randomly each month via telephone. Here, the chosen ones are asked about their financial situation and attitudes about the economy.

The Force, aka. The University of Michigan, releases the final report of the previous month on the first of the next month. Basically, the index is useful to economists because it gives a snapshot of whether consumers feel like spending. Yep, Leo… We’ve all been there at Chipotle.

Inflation and favorable employment conditions are what give consumers the urge to spend. But, current events also affect how much we spend. Things like bull and bear markets, and geopolitical events.

Why are economists dying to know what consumers are up? Because consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of the economy. This is, basically, real-life Gossip Girl… your one and only source into the financial activities of America’s citizenry. Where have they been? And what have they been up to? Who knows? You know you love me, xoxo… the economy. So, the more confident consumers are about their finances and the economy, the more likely they are to spend.

The MCSI is determined by subtracting the percentage of unfavorable consumer responses from the percentage of favorable ones. It is calculated based on the following five core survey questions:

  1. Compare the pair – Would you say that you are better or worse off financially than you were a year ago?
  2. After some crystal ball gazing – Do you think a year from now you will be better off financially, worse off, or about the same as now?
  3. Now, let’s get down to business – As a nation, do you think the next 12-months will be financially good or bad?
  4. Back to the future – What would you say is more likely: the country, as a whole, having a good five-years or so, or periods of widespread unemployment / depression?
  5. To spend or not to spend? Do you think it’s a good or bad time to buy major household items, such as furniture, refrigerator television etc.

After the relative scores have been worked out, and the actual equation of CSI = x1 + x2 + x3 + x4 + x5 / 6.7558 + 2.0 has been left in the school hallway for the Will Huntings of the world to work out, we have the CSI!

And there we have it – the MCSI – one of the leading indicators of consumer sentiment in the United States.

 

References

Investopedia 1

Investopedia 2

Economic Calendar