Data Viz Done Right

August 18, 2009

Do oil prices have a direct correlation to the price of gold?

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I recently read an article in Forbes about tracking oil prices. The theory is that oil prices have a direct correlation to the price of gold. Therefore most of the oil increase is a result of dollar inflation, not supply and demand.

What struck me immediately is the use of the scale to artificially highlight the correlation, a big no no in data visualization. Wanting to test the theory myself, I gathered the data and used Tableau to analyze it. As the article said, there is a strong positive correlation between the prices of gold and oil. Since the price of gold is typically ahead of the price of oil, I wonder if futures traders use this to set the price of oil or at least predict its direction.

As another interesting note, but not a surprising one, oil and gold prices can be correlated pretty strongly vs the consumer price index, which is a measure of inflation.

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