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The price and weight of a bar of gold

Raise the bar at the St. Louis Fed's Economy Museum

The U.S. Mint is missing one gold bar.

No. This isn’t the plot of a National Treasure sequel. It’s the latest addition to the St. Louis Fed’s Economy Museum: a 9.75” long, 1.5” tall bar of gold on loan from the Mint. Because the bar is 99.999% pure gold, it weighs 28 pounds! So, how much does a 28-pound gold bar cost?

Let’s use FRED data to figure out the price of this bar, which is on display, coincidentally, right across from the museum’s FRED exhibit.

Although some people see gold as a hedge against inflation, the graph above shows just how volatile the price of gold can be. Here, we have the “fixing price” of a troy ounce of gold in U.S. dollars in the London bullion market. London is the largest trading center for precious metals, and gold prices are reported daily at two different times (10:30 AM and 3:00 PM London time) to account for these intra-day variations.

Sorry, but now we have to do some math. There are 14.5833 troy ounces in a pound, and the museum’s gold bar weighs 28 pounds. That’s 408.3324 troy ounces. Much like gold, FRED is very malleable; so we can customize the data to reveal the price of the entire bar. In the graph below, we’ve applied the formula a * 408.3324. Clearly, changes in global supply and demand affect the price. And, between January 1 and February 10, 2020, the price of the bar has ranged from $623,564.41 to $646,880.19.

If you visit the Economy Museum, you’ll have the chance to try to lift this  bar yourself. Before you visit, though, you may want to eat your spinach: 28 pounds is no small weight. Speaking of, the bar is literally worth its weight in gold, but what about its weight in cash? At its highest, the price of the gold bar would be a little more than 14 pounds of (mostly) $100 bills. If, you’re interested, the formula $646,880.19 / $100 * 1 gram/bill * 0.00220462 pound/gram gets you there.

By the way, FRED fans: The Economy Museum also sells FRED t-shirts! Unfortunately, we have no price or weight data for those…

How these graphs were created: NOTE: Data series used in these graphs have been removed from the FRED database, so the instructions for creating the graphs are no longer valid. The graphs were also changed to static images.

Suggested by Maria Arias and Diego Mendez-Carbajo.

View on FRED, series used in this post: GOLDAMGBD228NLBM, GOLDPMGBD228NLBM

What’s the state of your air quality?

State-level CO2 emissions

Many data series in FRED are versatile enough to be viewed in different ways. We’ve offered two perspectives so far on CO2 emissions at the national level. Today, we offer another perspective—emissions at the state level—thanks to GeoFRED. The map above shows total emissions for each continental U.S. state. These numbers depend on the number of residents, types of economic activity, and types of fuel used. So it’s no surprise that the most populous states are the ones emitting the most carbon dioxide, with the possible exception of Louisiana.

Emissions from coal show something different. For example, the largest state, California, actually has one of the lowest coal-related emission levels. The relatively smaller states of Michigan, Missouri, and West Virginia, on the other hand, rank among the highest in coal-related emissions, which is a reflection of the fuel these states use for power generation.

Emissions from natural gas complement those from coal: That is, states with surprisingly low emissions from coal have higher emissions from natural gas (and vice versa). Louisiana has high emissions from natural gas, just as it does from petroleum, which is shown in our last map. While petroleum is used all over the country for transportation, extracting and refining it also requires a lot of petroleum, hence the higher emissions in oil-producing states.

How these maps were created:The original post referenced interactive maps from our now discontinued GeoFRED site. The revised post provides replacement maps from FRED’s new mapping tool. To create FRED maps, go to the data series page in question and look for the green “VIEW MAP” button at the top right of the graph. See this post for instructions to edit a FRED map. Only series with a green map button can be mapped.

Suggested by Christian Zimmermann.

Data fluctuations from Manic Monday to Freaky Friday

FRED tracks weekdays per month, quarter, and year

High-frequency data can include seasonal factors that affect economic activity. The timing of federal and local holidays changes each year, and weekends can fall all over the place in any given month. So not every period has the same number of business days. FRED now has data to help you sort that out.

Although it doesn’t account for holidays, the graph above shows the number of weekdays in a month. The data come from a release on domestic auto and truck production from the Board of Governors, which helps in cleaning the data of seasonal and predictable factors. The variation in weekdays is actually quite important, as it fluctuates between 20 and 23 days per month, which is a difference of over 10%.

The second graph shows the number of weekdays in a quarter, which fluctuates between 64 and 66 days, a difference of  about 3%, which is still large when you consider the typical quarterly growth rate of an economy is between 0.5% and 1%. The last graph shows the same statistic for a full year, between 260 and 262 days. Here, the difference is less than a percent, but it’s still significant.

How these graphs were created: For the first graph, search for “weekday” and the series we use here should be at the top of the list. Do the same for the second and third graphs, but use the “Edit Graph” panel to change (1) the frequency to quarterly and annual, respectively, and (2) the aggregation method to “Sum.”

Suggested by Christian Zimmermann.

View on FRED, series used in this post: G17MVSFWWKDAYS


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