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The Global Trade Slowdown Is Expected to Continue in 2020

Sources: IHS Markit, Euler Hermes Actual and anticipated gains and losses are shown in billions of U.S. dollars.

Global trade in 2019 is on track for its slowest annual growth in a decade at +1.5% with “no hope for sizeable improvement” in 2020, according to a new report by Euler Hermes, which blames higher tariffs and uncertainty regarding trade policy for the slowdown.  

Exporters are likely to see $420B in losses this year, according to the report, with modest 1.7% growth predicted for next year. Inside the 2020 number is a mixed bag with software and IT services (+$62B), agrifood (+$41B) and chemicals (+$37B) moving ahead, and electronics (-$47B), metals (-$42B), and machinery and equipment (-$27B) lagging behind. 

“The so-called phase 1 deal between the U.S. and China, despite being superficial, may bring some comfort,” said Ludovic Subran, chief economist at Allianz and Euler Hermes.

“But renewed threats of tariffs and a busy political year in 2020 should bring higher volatility, leaving no hope for sizable improvement going forward.” 

South Asia Sees a Shrinking Middle Class and Surge in Poverty

Source: Pew Research Center

More people moved into poverty in South Asia in 2020 compared to other regions globally, reversing years of progress in the region. South Asia also saw the biggest decline in its middle class, which decreased by 32 million people, while East Asia and the Pacific lost 19 million, according to Pew Research Center. 

Globally, there were 54 million fewer people in the middle class in 2020 than the pre-pandemic forecasted number. The global population living in poverty rose to an estimated 803 million — compared to the 672 million that was initially expected pre-pandemic. “The steep rise in global poverty is driven by the fact that many who were in the low-income tier prior to the pandemic lived on the margin of poverty,” according to Pew. 

The path to recovery remains unclear as regions start to revive their economies — although vaccine distribution has led to a rise in consumer confidence. The pace and strength of the recovery will depend on access to medical supplies, governmental support and regional economic and societal status prior to COVID-19.

Insurance for M&A Deals Surged in 2020

Source: Marsh

The communications, media and technology sectors held the highest number of insurance policies to protect M&A deals in 2020 according to new data from Marsh McLennan. Mergers and acquisitions in the technology sector held the most deal volume in the United States at $346.5 billion, a result of an increase in e-commerce, remote working and digital transformation in different sectors.

M&A activity in the U.S. was down 21% by value and 16% by deal count in 2020 compared to 2019. Despite this sudden halt in activity during the second quarter, transactional risk insurance in the U.S. and Canada reached record highs in the fourth quarter — ending in a total of $545 billion in deal value. Insurers shifted their focus to COVID-related impacts on companies.

The transactional risk insurance market will face multiple challenges in 2021, such as a continued increase in claims frequency and severity, rising costs and a focus by insurers on claims related to COVID-19. 

Why US Supercities Are Losing Appeal

Source: Milken Institute, 2021

San Francisco, California, lost its place as the best-performing city in the United States, dropping 23 places in rank. It was replaced by Provo, Utah — a relatively new innovation center with a lower cost of living than California’s “supercities.” Intermountain western and southern cities outperformed those originally popular coastal cities, according to Milken Institute

The annual index tracks cities’ regional economies based on job creation, wage growth and high-tech innovation. For the first time, the 2021 criteria also considered broadband access and housing affordability to hold cities accountable to providing a more inclusive economy. 

Shifts to remote work during COVID-19 resulted in U.S. residents relocating away from pricier cities to ones that are more affordable. An Oliver Wyman Forum survey found that 2% of respondents have permanently or temporarily relocated because of COVID-19, while another 14% are planning to relocate or leaning toward doing so. These less-populated cities may be better positioned to prosper after the pandemic, with a higher chance of attracting companies, capital and citizens.

Why the Number of US Homeowners Grew During COVID-19

Source: Pew Research Center

The number of homeowners in the United States grew by 2 million over the last year, reflecting a 2.6% increase. This is the seventh-largest percentage increase in homeowners since 1965, according to Pew Research Center. By the fourth quarter of 2020, there were around 83 million owner-occupied homes in the U.S.

This growth in homeownership, Pew Research Center states, resulted from economic growth and an increasing number of households over time. Although the unemployment rate during COVID-19 skyrocketed, job losses fell heavily on young adults and low-income workers, who are less likely to be potential homebuyers. In 2020, interest rates were at record lows, there was a slowdown in foreclosures and household incomes were at a high before the pandemic — all factors made it easier to enter the housing market. Experts predict that the housing market will remain strong in 2021, driven by low mortgage rates, the vaccine distribution and growing consumer confidence

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