Category Archives: economy

8/4/18: Talent vs Luck: Differentiating Success from Failure

In their paper, "Talent vs Luck: the role of randomness in success and failure", A. Pluchino. A. E. Biondo, A. Rapisarda (25 Feb 2018: tackle the mythology of the "dominant meritocratic paradigm of highly competitive Western cultures... rooted on the belief that success is due mainly, if not exclusively, to personal qualities such as talent, intelligence, skills, efforts or risk taking".

The authors note that, although "sometimes, we are willing to admit that a certain degree of luck could also play a role in achieving significant material success, is rather common to underestimate the importance of external forces in individual successful stories".

Some priors first: "intelligence or talent exhibit a Gaussian distribution among the population, whereas the distribution of wealth - considered a proxy of success - follows typically a power law (Pareto law). Such a discrepancy between a Normal distribution of inputs, suggests that some hidden ingredient is at work behind the scenes."

The authors show evidence that suggests that "such an [missing] ingredient is just randomness". Or, put differently, a chance.

The authors "show that, if it is true that some degree of talent is necessary to be successful in life, almost never the most talented people reach the highest peaks of success, being overtaken by mediocre but sensibly luckier individuals."

Two pictures are worth a 1000 words, each:

Figure 5 taken from the paper shows:

  • In panel (a): Total number of lucky events and
  • In panel (b): Total number of unlucky events 

Both are shown as "function of the capital/success of the agents"

Overall, "the plot shows the existence of a strong correlation between success and luck: the most successful individuals are also the luckiest ones, while the less successful are also the unluckiest ones."

Figure 7 shows:
In panel (a): Distribution of the final capital/success for a population with different random initial conditions, that follows a power law.
In panel (b): The final capital of the most successful individuals is "reported as function of their talent".

Overall, "people with a medium-high talent result to be, on average, more successful than people with low or medium-low talent, but very often the most successful individual is a moderately gifted agent and only rarely the most talented one.

Main conclusions on the paper are:

  • "The model shows the importance, very frequently underestimated, of lucky events in determining the final level of individual success." 
  • "Since rewards and resources are usually given to those that have already reached a high level of success, mistakenly considered as a measure of competence/talent, this result is even a more harmful disincentive, causing a lack of opportunities for the most talented ones."

The results are "a warning against the risks of what we call the ”naive meritocracy” which, underestimating the role of randomness among the determinants of success, often fail to give honors and rewards to the most competent people."

3/8/17: BRIC Composite PMIs: July

Having covered BRIC Manufacturing PMIs in the previous post (, and Services PMIs (, here is the analysis of the Composite PMIs.

Table below summaries current shorter term (monthly) trends in Composite PMIs:

Brazil has slipped into a new sub-50 Composite PMI trend in 2Q 2017 and, as of July, remains in the slump, although at 49.4, July Composite PMI reading signals much weaker rate of economic activity contraction than the June reading of 48.5. The problem for Latin America’s largest economy is that the hopes for an extremely weak recovery, set in 50.4 readings in April and May are now gone. In fact, 2Q 2017 average Composite PMI for Brazil stood at 49.8, which was stronger than July reading and marked the strongest performance for the economy since 3Q 2014. All in, July marked the start of the 14th consecutive quarter of Composite PMIs signalling economic recession.

Russia Composite PMI at the end of July stood at 53.4, a respectably strong number, signalling good growth prospects for the economy, but down from 54.8 in June and 56.0 in May. In fact, July reading was the lowest in 9 months. Given the economy’s performance in 1Q 2017, set against composite PMIs, the July and 1-2Q readings suggest that Russia is on track to record 1.0-1.5% growth this year, but not quite 2.0% or higher as expected by the Government. We will need to see 3Q and 4Q averages closer to 56-57 range to have a shot at above 1.5% growth.

China posted 2Q 2017 Composite PMI at 51.3, which is below July 51.9 reading. Still, July improvement is yet to be confirmed across the rest of 3Q 2017. China’s Composite PMI slowed from a recent peak of 53.1 in 4Q 2016 to 42.3 in  1Q 2017 and 51.3 in 2Q 2017.

India’s Composite PMI reflected wide-ranging weakening in the economy struck by both botched de-monetisation ‘reform’ and equally bizarre tax reforms. Sinking from appreciably strong 52.2 in 2Q 2017 to 46.0 in July, this fall marked the lowest PMI reading since 1Q 2009 and the second lowest reading on record. India’s economy has been in a weak state since 3Q 2016 when Composite PMI averaged 53.1. The PMI fell to 50.7 and 50.8 in 4Q 2016 and 1Q 2017 before recovering in 2Q 2017. This recovery is now in severe doubt. We will need to see August and September readings to confirm an outright PMI recession, but the signs from July reading are quite poor.

All in, in July, Russia was the only BRIC economy that came close (at 53.4) to Global Composite PMI reading of 53.5. Two BRIC economies posted a sub-50 reading. In 2Q 2017, Global Composite PMI was 53.7, with Russia Composite PMI at 55.4 being the only BRIC economy that supported global economic growth to the upside. In fact, Russia lead Global Composite PMIs in every quarter since  2Q 2016.

3/8/17: BRIC Services PMI: July

Having covered BRIC Manufacturing PMIs in the previous post (, here is the analysis of the Services Sector PMIs.

Brazil Services PMI continued trending below 50.0 mark for the third month in a row, hitting 48.8 in July, after reaching 47.4 in June. While the rate of contraction in the sector slowed down, it remains statistically significant. This puts an end to the hope for a recovery in the sector, with Brazil Services PMIs now posting only two above-50 (nominal, one statistically) readings since October 2014.

Russian Services PMI also moderated in July, although the reading remains statistically above 50.0. July reading of 52.6 signals slower growth than 55.5 reading in June. The Services sector PMIs are now 18 months above 50.0 marker, continuing to confirm relatively sustained and robust (compared to Manufacturing sector) expansion.

China Services PMI remained in the statistical doldrums, posting 51.5 in July gayer 51.6 in June. The indicator has never reached below 50.0 in nominal terms in its history, so 51.5 reading is statistically not significant, given PMIs volatility and positive skew. Overall, this is second consecutive month of PMIs falling below statical significance marker, implying ongoing weakness in the Services economy in China.

India’s Services PMIs followed Manufacturing sector indicator and tanked in July, hitting 45.9 (sharp contraction), having previous posted statistically significant reading for expansion at 53.1 in June. Volatility in India’s Services indicator is striking.

Table and chart below summarise short term movements:

Looking at quarterly comparatives, July was a poor month for Brazil Services sector, with July reading of 48.8 coming in weaker than already poor 49.0 indicator for 2Q 2017. In Brazil’s case, current recession in Services is now reaching into 12th consecutive quarter in nominal terms and into 15ht consecutive quarter in statistical terms. Russia Services PMI also moderated at the start of 3Q 2017 (52.6 in July) having posted average 2Q 2017 PMI of 56.0. Russia Services sector expansion is now into its 6th consecutive quarter (statistically) and seventh consecutive quarter nominally. The same, albeit less pronounced, trend is also evident in China (July PMI at 51.5 against 2Q 2017 PMI of 52.0). India Services PMI was under water in 4Q 2016, followed by weak (zero statistically) growth in 1Q 2017 and somewhat stronger growth in 2Q 2017. The start of 3Q 2017 has been marked by a sharp, statistically significant negative growth signal.

With Global Services PMI hitting 53.7 in July, against 53.8 average for 2Q 2017 and 53.6 average in 1Q 2017, BRIC economies overall are severely underperforming global growth conditions (BRIC Services PMI is now below Global Services PMI in 3 quarters running and this trend is confirmed at the start of 3Q 2017).

3/8/17: BRIC Manufacturing PMIs: July

BRIC PMIs for July 2017 are out, so here are the headline numbers and some analysis. 

Top level summary of monthly readings for BRIC Manufacturing PMIs is provided in the Table below:

Of interest here are:
  • Changes in Brazil Manufacturing PMI signalled weakening in the economy in June that was sustained into July. Manufacturing PMI for Brazil has now fallen from 52.0 in May to 50.5 in June and to 50.0 in July. This suggests that any recovery momentum was short lived. 
  • Russian Manufacturing PMI, meanwhile, powered up to 52.7 in July from 50.3 in June, rising to the highest level in 6 months. Good news: Russian manufacturing sector has now posted above-50 nominal readings in 12 consecutive months. Less bright news: Russian Manufacturing PMIs have signalled weak rate of recovery in 5 months to July and July reading was not quite as impressive as for the period of November 2016 - January 2017. Nonetheless, if confirmed in August-September, slight acceleration in Manufacturing sector can provide upward support for the economy in 3Q 2017, support that will be critical as to whether the economy will meet Government expectations for ~2% full year economic expansion.
  • Chinese manufacturing PMI gained slightly in July (51.1) compared to weak May (49.6) and June (504.), but growth remains weak. Last time Chinese Manufacturing posted PMI statistically above 50.0 (zero growth) marker was January 2013. This flies in the face of official growth figures coming from China.
  • India’s Manufacturing PMI fell off the cliff in July (47.9) compered to already weak growth recorded in June (50.9). Over the last 3 months, India’s Manufacturing sector has gone from weak growth, to statistically zero growth to an outright contraction.

Overall, GDP-weighted BRIC Manufacturing PMI stood at extremely weak 50.4 in July 2017, down from equally weak 50.6 in 2Q 2017. In both periods, BRIC Manufacturing sector grossly underperformed Global Manufacturing PMI dynamics (52.7 in July and 52.6 in 2Q 2017). Russia is the only country in the BRIC group with Manufacturing PMI matching Global Manufacturing PMI performance in July. Russian Manufacturing PMI was below Global Manufacturing PMI in 2Q 2017.

Net outrun: BRIC Manufacturing sector currently acts as a drag on global manufacturing growth, with both India and Brazil providing momentum to the downside for the BRIC Manufacturing PMIs.