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Zinc: The Essential, Sustainable, and Versatile Metal

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The following content is sponsored by Trilogy Metals.

What would the world be like without zinc?

Long-running TV show The Simpsons showed us one depiction what this could look like—but in order to truly gauge the impact of the metal on our lives, we need a better understanding of the uses of zinc and its role in modern life.

Zinc’s Role in Modern Life

Zinc is a naturally occurring mineral that is present all around us: from our bodies, foods, and medicines to the buildings we live and work in. Despite this, very few people actually know how it gets there.

This infographic comes to us from Trilogy Metals and looks at the widespread uses of zinc in the modern economy, from construction and infrastructure to health, farming, and green energy.

The Zinc Supply Chain

Zinc is the fourth most used metal in the world behind iron, aluminum, and copper.

Before zinc makes it into its various applications, miners have to extract the metal from the ground. So which countries are the top producers of zinc?

Country Mined Zinc Production (2019, metric tons) Share of World Production (2019)
China 4,300,000 33%
Peru 1,400,000 11%
Australia 1,300,000 10%
Total 7,000,000 54%

China, Peru, and Australia account for 7 million tons or 54% of the world’s zinc production. Although the U.S. is among the world’s top five zinc producers, it only produced 780,000 metric tons of the silvery metal in 2019—roughly one-fifth of China’s zinc production.

We don’t always use zinc in its raw, metallic form; it is often refined and processed first.

The United States is lagging in the production of refined zinc, with a net import reliance of 87%. As the demand for zinc rises, local sources of mined and refined zinc will be valuable for import-reliant countries like the U.S.

But where does the demand for zinc come from, and what makes it so valuable?

Zinc Strengthens: Infrastructure and Alloys

Zinc is also referred to as the “galvanizing metal” for its role in protecting steel. In fact, galvanizing accounts for around 50% of total annual zinc usage.

Galvanizing with zinc improves steel in various ways:

  • Strength
    Adding zinc as a protective layer provides steel with higher impact strength
  • Longevity
    The zinc coating on galvanized steel lasts around 50 years, allowing structures made from steel to last longer
  • Corrosion-resistance
    Zinc acts as a sacrificial coating for the underlying steel, protecting it from corrosion and rust

From steel-frame buildings and bridges to furniture and automotive body parts, galvanized steel plays a critical role in building sustainable infrastructure.

According to a study by the National Association of Corrosion Engineers, corrosion costs the world $2.5 trillion annually. Given that only 6% of all steel produced annually is galvanized, increasing the use of zinc-coated steel could potentially reduce this economic impact.

Zinc in Alloys

Besides galvanizing, alloying is one of the most common uses of zinc. Zinc’s ability to provide other metals with strength and corrosion-resistance makes it an effective alloying material.

Around 25% of all zinc is used in alloys to create metals such as brass, which are commonly found in household fixtures, plumbing fittings, electronic devices, and musical instruments. Additionally, zinc alloys have a range of engineering applications, thanks to their rigidity, strength, and conductivity.

Zinc Improves: Health and Productivity

Zinc is not only a natural part of our body but also a critical nutrient for our immune systems.

The UN has labeled zinc a “life-saving commodity”—increased access to zinc could prevent 200,000 childhood deaths annually. Zinc is an essential nutrient for various reasons:

  • Helps fight infections
  • Vital for taste and smell
  • Enhances memory and thinking

Furthermore, zinc oxide, a compound produced by oxidizing metallic zinc, is a key ingredient in various health and medicinal products including cosmetics, food additives, and anti-fungal creams.

Zinc in Crops

Besides its critical role in the human body, zinc is also an essential micronutrient for plants.

When farmers add zinc to soils in the form of zinc oxide, it helps their crops resist tough conditions such as drought, salinity, and heat. A stable supply of zinc can also help crops reach higher productivity and yield levels.

As the global population grows, crop productivity will be important in addressing the higher demand for food. Zinc has an essential role to play in making crops resilient and more productive.

Zinc Supports: The Clean Energy Transition

The transition to a low-carbon, clean energy future will be mineral intensive—and zinc is playing a key role in boosting this transition.

Zinc-air batteries are quickly emerging as an efficient clean energy-storage solution that can provide renewable electricity in remote regions. Three factors make zinc-air batteries an integral part of the clean energy transition:

  • Efficient for storing non-constant renewable energy
  • Affordable because of their use of zinc
  • High energy density

In fact, NantEnergy’s zinc-air energy storage systems have already made a significant impact on sustainability.

  • Avoided 50,000 tons of CO2 emissions
  • Reduced 4 million liters of diesel fuel use
  • Provided 200,000 people with access to power

Additionally, zinc protects the steel used to build renewable energy infrastructure. Offshore wind masts are made from zinc thermal sprayed steel to prevent corrosion, and solar PV panels use support structures made of galvanized steel.

Zinc in the Circular Economy

Zinc is part of a circular economy that restores, recovers, and reuses.

For starters, zinc is fully recyclable—it can be recycled from scrap without losing any of its properties. As a matter of fact, 60% of all produced zinc is still in use. Moreover, zinc’s 45% end-of-life recycling rate means that almost half of all the zinc produced is recycled after final-usage.

Zinc’s contribution to the circular economy will help minimize waste and improve resource sustainability as our material needs grow.

Zinc: Strengthening the Path to a Sustainable Future

The uses of zinc today are widespread and make an enormous impact on almost every aspect of our modern lives. Just as our present world could not function without zinc, so will our future.

As we transition to a cleaner world, zinc will continue strengthening, improving, and supporting the modern economy.

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A Visual Guide to Human Emotion

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If the global pandemic has taught us anything, it is that humans truly are social creatures. Most of us need community and connection to thrive.

But when people are not socially distancing and limiting their contacts, who do they choose to spend time with?

This interactive chart from Our World in Data reveals who Americans spend the most daily minutes with at different ages of their life, based on data collected between 2009 and 2019 through the Time Use Survey conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Adolescence to Adulthood

In the average American’s teenage years, they spend most of their time alone and with their family. This makes sense, as the majority of people under 18 still live in a home with their nuclear family unit, meaning parents and siblings.

Jumping forward to a person’s early adulthood, 25-year-olds spend an average of 275 minutes per day alone, and 199 minutes with coworkers. This aligns with people in their twenties beginning to enter the workforce.

By age 35, people are still spending the most time with themselves, at 263 minutes per day. However, time spent combined with children and partners, the runner-ups, adds up to 450 minutes or around 7.5 hours a day.

Age Most Time Spent Second Third
15 Family – 267 Minutes Alone – 193 Minutes Friends – 109 Minutes
25 Alone – 275 Minutes Coworkers – 199 Minutes Partner – 121 Minutes
35 Alone – 263 Minutes Children – 249 Minutes Partner – 198 Minutes

Although people are spending more time with kids and partners as they grow older, this trend may shift, as women are having fewer children. More women today are obtaining an education and are entering the workforce, causing them to delay or entirely put off having children.

Interestingly, the mid-thirties also tends to be the stage of life where time spent with friends levels off and remains steadily low throughout the rest of one’s life, usually sitting around an average of 30-40 minutes per day.

Middle to Old Age

Upon turning 45, the average person spends 309 minutes a day alone, and in second place, 199 minutes with children. Time with coworkers remains relatively steady throughout someone’s forties, which coincides with the middle of career for most workers.

At age 55, time spent alone is still the winner, but time spent with a partner goes up to 184 minutes, and time with coworkers also moves up, pushing out time spent with children.

Age Most Time Spent Second Third
45 Alone – 309 Minutes Children – 199 Minutes Partner – 184 Minutes
55 Alone – 384 Minutes Partner – 184 Minutes Coworkers – 163 Minutes
65 Alone – 444 Minutes Partner – 243 Minutes Family – 65 Minutes
75 Alone – 463 Minutes Partner – 253 Minutes Family – 56 Minutes

Typically, time spent with children during the mid-fifties tends to see a sharp decline as children enter adulthood and begin to move out.

However, it will be interesting to see what impact COVID-19 has on future data. With implications such as job loss or reduced income, more children are staying at home longer or even moving back home. 52% of adult children in the U.S. today are living with their parents.

As people get closer to old age, around 65-years-old, they spend increasingly less time with coworkers as they begin to retire, and much more time alone or with a spouse. Then, from age 65-75, people consistently spend the most time alone, then with a partner and family.

Alone and Lonely?

One of the most significant trends on the chart is increased time spent alone.

time spent alone by age

By the time someone reaches 80, their daily minutes alone goes up to 477. This can be a problematic reality. As the population continues to age in many countries around the world, more elderly people are left without resources or social connection.

Additionally, while 1-in-4 elderly Americans live alone, the trend of solo living is going up across nearly every age group, and this trend applies globally.

who americans spend the most time with

But being alone does not necessarily equate to loneliness, as Our World in Data found that there was no direct correlation between living alone and reported feelings of loneliness.

It is not necessarily the amount of time spent with others, but the quality and expectations, that reduce loneliness.

Spending Time Together

Where and how we spend our time has a direct relationship to who we spend time with. More hours at home and off work can mean either more time spent with family, children, and partners, or more time spent alone.

Regardless of who we spend the most time with, the pandemic revealed the importance of human connection to our wellbeing. While many are still doing this through their screens or at a six-foot distance, 2021 could be the year we break out of our bubbles and get back to time spent together.

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How Much Does Big Tech Make Every Minute?

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Big Tech Just Keeps Getting Bigger

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to wrap your head around just how massive some big tech stocks are getting, especially since they keep outdoing themselves.

The pandemic has pushed even more activity online, and the FAATMAN stocks (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Tesla, Microsoft, Alphabet, and Netflix) have benefited immensely.

With many of these companies experiencing record breaking quarters, how much revenue do the big tech stocks generate per minute?

Company Revenue Per Minute Market Cap ($B)
Amazon $955,517 $1,560
Apple $848,090 $2,040
Alphabet (Google) $433,014 $1,370
Microsoft $327,823 $1,750
Facebook $213,628 $733
Tesla $81,766 $648
Netflix $50,566 $238

Data as of March 2021. Revenue per minute figures based off SEC filings, and market caps from Seeking Alpha.

Milestones Across The Board

Facebook

Facebook continues to face considerable headwinds as privacy matters garner more political attention. But this is yet to have any material effect on the business.

Their most recent quarter was a company best, generating $27 billion in revenue, and hosting an average of 2.8 billion monthly-active-users (MAUs) on the flagship platform.

Alphabet

Alphabet, the parent company of Google, is a behemoth. They finished 2020 with $182 billion in revenues, with approximately $20 billion coming from YouTube.

Furthermore, almost 4 billion Google searches occur every single day, making it the most popular website in the world.

Amazon

Although the U.S. remains their most prominent market, Amazon does considerably well in other parts of the world. For example, in 2020 they generated $20 billion in revenues from Japan, and $29 billion from Germany.

Tesla

The growing EV narrative is a large part of what’s driven Tesla to new heights. The company graduated to the prestigious S&P 500, and along the way has made Elon Musk among the richest people in the world.

Microsoft

Microsoft is the second largest Big Tech stock with a whopping market cap of $1.75 trillion. Their diversified business holdings include Bing, LinkedIn, Xbox, and their cloud computing service Azure.

Apple

Apple is no longer just about the iPhone. In the first quarter of 2021, Apple’s services segment of the business made $15.7 billion in revenue, greater than both Mac and iPad, which each contributed about $8 billion to the business. In addition, their wearables, home, and accessories category made $12.9 billion in revenue.

Netflix

The pandemic has been kind to Netflix and Reed Hastings. The streaming giant wrapped up 2020 adding 52 million new subscribers—taking the total tally to 203 million.

Netflix’s breadth of content routinely dominates the Golden Globe awards. And with 42 nominations in 2021, this year was no exception. Their original content is a driving factor behind the impressive subscriber growth and revenue generation.

No End In Sight

The combined market cap of the FAATMAN stocks is now over $8 trillion. To put it into perspective, that’s about equivalent to Germany, Canada, and France’s GDP combined.

Despite their gigantic valuations, the growing topline figures from their SEC filings suggests they are not done yet. So while the current value may appear bloated, no one can quite rule out FAATMAN getting fatter.

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Inside ESG Ratings: How Companies are Scored

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COVID-19 has created a watershed moment in the shift to digital, triggering a wave of online fraud in the process.

Direct messages can be accessed, and passwords changed—with critical infrastructure at stake. By way of social engineering, perpetrators exploit human weakness and vulnerabilities. It raises an unsettling prospect: as the world becomes increasingly digital, what does this mean for security?

Leveraging a rich dataset, this infographic from Equifax unearths several new trends in digital fraud, and shows how businesses can prevent online scams without impacting user experience.

Understanding How Online Fraud Affects You

Here are just a few of the trends impacting lenders, service providers, and the U.S. government.

Credit Cards

Credit card fraud is not a new phenomenon. The COVID-19 era, however, has accelerated it for both businesses and consumers. Credit card fraud on new accounts has spiked 88% since 2018, impacting roughly 250,000 U.S. individuals. This is where scammers use a stolen, synthetic identity to open a new account and maximize credit limits.

Meanwhile, consumers are turning to ecommerce experiences more so than ever before to purchase necessities, entertainment, and more. This means shopping with new vendors and making more card-not-present purchases.

With an increase in transactions comes an increase in chargebacks, either from friendly fraud or legitimate disputes. It’s something that hasn’t gone unnoticed: In fact, 40% of businesses have noticed an increase in chargebacks since January of 2020.

Number of Victims

Overall, the number of fraud victims has jumped 20% according to reported fraud victim alerts. In 2019, the most reported fraud alerts affected those aged between 60-69, with an average of $600 in losses.

Age Percentage of Losses Median Loss Total Losses
19 and under 3% $200 $14M
20-29 13% $448 $124M
30-39 16% $379 $168M
40-49 15% $410 $178M
50-59 16% $500 $186M
60-69 20% $600 $223M
70-79 12% $800 $150M
80 and over 5% $1,600 $72M
Total (across all age groups) 100% $448 $1,115M

*Based on 1,697,934 fraud reports in 2019, with 51% including age information
Source: Federal Trade Commission (Jan, 2020)

Now, fraudsters are using phishing schemes and COVID-19 scams by setting up fake websites with false COVID-19 information.

Synthetic Identity Risk

Often used in credit card fraud, synthetic identity theft happens when criminals construct a fake identity—based on both real and fake information—to make fraudulent purchases. Synthetic identity fraud can include account piggybacking, setting up a fake business, or teaming up with corrupt merchants. Scams that manipulate people with good credit have shot up 36% since 2018.

Authorized User Abuse

As the pandemic has unfolded, authorized user abuse has increased more than 20%.

Authorized user abuse occurs when low-risk primary card owners “rent” their tradelines with extensive credit histories, high credit limits and solid repayment profiles to others, often, knowingly, to fraudsters.

So how can businesses protect themselves against these increasingly sophisticated tactics?

Navigating the Right Balance

Preventing fraud is simple: stop accepting transactions or allowing new account creation. But, that stifles business growth. More friction isn’t the answer either. Businesses need to navigate the balance of delivering seamless experience and fraud prevention.

To improve online security for any business, it’s important to understand the consumer lifecycle journey. Typically, pain points across this cycle fall within two camps: customer experience or security protections.

Type Pain Point Solution
Customer experience Delivering an optimal experience
  • Businesses can ask consumers to supply less personal information
  • Apply behind-the-scenes data collection to verify identity
  • Conduct passive checks, which collect data without direct interaction with the end user, before verifying identity
  • Security Registration
  • Utilize identity information to streamline the registration/sign-up process, which can reduce the amount of input a consumer needs to input
  • Log-in or Authentication
  • Leverage device facial recognition, fingerprints for login ease
  • Payment
  • Use digital signals such as device or location without compromising risk
  • As a result, these can improve businesses’ monetization value and help the bottom line.

    Pinpointing these specific, layered solutions can make the difference between winning over a new customer or not—without sacrificing your security.

    Online Fraud: What Happens Next?

    Still, striking the right balance between customer experience and security can be challenging.

    But when these solutions are implemented, a 73% drop in fraud report incidents is reported by some users. Along with this, a double-digit jump in credit approvals takes place, while overhead costs linked to expensive application reviews sink 30%.

    To mitigate threats and prevent consumer bottlenecks, businesses can apply solutions such as:

    • Account verification
    • Digital identity trust
    • Document verification
    • Multi-factor authentication

    Further, businesses can look to establish the level of trust or risk at every interaction across the customer journey, from account creation and login to payment transaction.

    High-trust interactions can move along a seamless, VIP experience, while riskier interactions can be dynamically challenged with friction. A vast identity trust network combined with adaptive AI helps businesses to make appropriate decisions at each interaction. This protects both the business and customer experience.

    Combined, they provide the early warning technology that thwarts online fraud and digital attacks—with lasting implications for businesses in the COVID-19 digital era.

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    Visual Capitalist Explores the Material World

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    As the impacts of climate change and the importance of decarbonization have started to become clear, it’s hard to ignore the ongoing shift towards embracing renewables.

    Today, the renewables energy market has already become the energy industry’s biggest driver of growth, and both governments and businesses have been pressed to solidify their commitments to green energy.

    This infographic from eToro highlights the many developments propelling the shift towards renewable energy, and shines a spotlight on what investors should expect in the market.

    Renewable Energy’s Growing Market Presence

    Investments in clean energy have been growing both quickly and consistently.

    Before 2010, annual global investment in clean energy climbed from just tens of billions to $177 billion in 2009. But in the following decade, annual investment in renewables regularly surpassed $200 billion, reaching $303.5 billion in 2020.

    Early spending in the field was led by the EU, but recently China and the U.S. have become the world’s largest spenders in clean energy.

    As interest in renewables has grown, so has the sector’s impact on capital markets. Of the 174 announced M&A deals in the U.S. power and utilities industry slated for 2021, 83% involve renewables.

    Combined with increasing pressure from shareholders of public companies (and especially energy producers) for climate-related resolutions, 2021 is expected to be the first time renewable energy surpasses oil & gas as the energy industry’s largest area of spending.

    At the same time, governments are feeling pressured to commit to the Paris climate accords beyond mere statements, with many countries signing net-zero emission laws.

    Country Net-Zero Emissions Target Year
    Sweden 2045
    Denmark 2050
    France 2050
    Hungary 2050
    Germany 2050
    New Zealand 2050
    Spain 2050
    U.K. 2050

    Wind and Solar Lead The Renewable Energy Shift

    Knowing where the shift towards clean energy is happening is equally as important.

    Early investments in clean energy transitions were spread out across many promising sectors, including hydro, nuclear, and carbon-capture for fossil fuel production. But over the past 10 years, wind and solar energy have been leading the charge.

    Levelised costs for solar electricity are already estimated as lower than gas or coal as of 2020, thanks to rapidly dropping output costs.

    Electricity Source Estimated Levelised Cost per MWh (2019)
    Solar PV
    (China & India)
    $20-$40
    Solar PV
    (U.S. & Europe)
    $30-$60
    Gas $50-$90
    Coal $50-$120

    In terms of capacity, the global installation of wind and solar has already eclipsed hydro electricity, and is expected to pass both gas and coal by 2024.

    Expected increases in renewable energy capacity are estimated to almost match the increasing global demand for energy. However, much of that demand is still expected to be met by fossil fuels, especially for regions with massive, scalable demand.

    But as the renewable energy shift continues to pressure greater adoption of clean energy measures, further investment in renewable production and cost cutting, the market demand is expected to shift to green as well.

    How Can Investors Take Part?

    eToro’s RenewableEnergy CopyPortfolio* gives investors direct access to the valuable renewable energy market.

    Curated by experienced and proven investment teams, the thematic portfolio offers exposure to both veteran companies and up-and-coming pioneers in the renewable energy space, with no management fees.

    *Your capital is at risk.
    CopyPortfolios is a portfolio management product, provided by eToro Europe Ltd., which is authorised and regulated by the Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission.

    CopyPortfolios should not be considered as exchange traded funds, nor as hedge funds.

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