Asked to name the most valuable commodity, most people would probably plump for gold or another precious metal, such as platinum.
Or, if they were looking at the size of an entire market, they might cite oil.
For many professionals in financial markets though, the value of gold and oil pale into insignificance alongside data.
That has been underlined by news today that S&P Global, the financial data provider, is buying its rival IHS Markit for $44bn (£32bn).
It is the biggest takeover so far in 2020 – a year that has itself broken records for mergers and acquisitions activity.
The deal highlights the increasing value of data and the fierce race to supply more data to participants in financial markets that are themselves becoming increasingly automated.
That race has seen the London Stock Exchange announce the blockbuster $27bn (£20bn) takeover of Refinitiv, the former financial information and risk arm of Thomson Reuters, which is navigating its way through the regulatory process.
It has also seen the $11bn (£8bn) takeover of Ellie Mae, a technology platform for the mortgage finance industry, by Intercontinental Exchange, the owner of the New York Stock Exchange, which was completed in September.
Slightly further back, there was Bloomberg’s £520m purchase of Barclays’ index benchmarking arm in 2016, while the previous year saw Verisk Analytics pay £1.9bn for the energy data provider Wood Mackenzie.
Bringing together S&P Global with IHS Markit will, in the words of the two, create «a combined business with increased scale and world-class products in core market segments».
They went on to say that «the combined company will have balanced earnings across major industry segments and a resilient portfolio, providing additional financial flexibility to pursue value-creating opportunities».
Both businesses are big suppliers of data to financial centres such as Wall Street and the City.
S&P Global is best known as one of the world’s biggest credit ratings agencies but it is also a major provider of indices, notably the S&P 500, America’s most important stock index.
IHS Markit is itself the creation of a merger in 2016 between two businesses: US-based IHS and UK-based Markit.
There are a couple of factors that have driven this activity.
The first is the success of Bloomberg, which started out as a provider of specialist financial data to participants in the bond market, but which now supplies financial data, analysis and news to 325,000 subscribers around the world – each paying $2,000 (£1,500) per month to receive this via a terminal.
The sheer profitability of Bloomberg over many decades has made other data providers think more deeply about how they can sell financial information to market players.
It has also encouraged some data providers to think about combinations in order to compete more effectively with Bloomberg’s financial might.
Stock exchange owners like the LSE and ICE have been eager participants in this activity as they seek to diversify their revenues.
One battleground has been running investment benchmarks such as stock indices: S&P is the world’s biggest players in this field and especially since it formed S&P Dow Jones Indices, a joint venture with CME Group, the owner of some of the world’s biggest commodity exchanges and News Corp, the owner of the Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones.
These have become especially money-spinning as investors increasingly switch from leaving their savings with ‘active’ managers, who select stocks for the portfolios they run and ‘passive’ managers, which simply track the performance of a benchmark or an index.
S&P is said to have approached IHS Markit about a merger in September.
The enlarged company will be roughly two-thirds owned by S&P’s shareholders and the remaining third owned by shareholders in IHS Markit.
An attraction from the merger, from S&P’s point of view, is that it reduces its reliance on the credit ratings sector.
That currently accounts for 47% of S&P Global’s current turnover but will make up just 30% of annual sales at the combined business.
One of the biggest individual shareholders in that business will be Lance Uggla, the chief executive of IHS Markit, who founded Markit in 2003.
Canadian-born Mr Uggla, 58, was a former credit derivatives trader with Toronto Dominion Bank in London who spotted an opportunity to bring clarity in pricing to the fast growing market in credit default swaps – a type of insurance taken out by bond investors against the issuers of the bonds they buy going bust.
Markit began its days in a converted barn in St Albans, Hertfordshire, in 2003 with just five employees.
The barn was so prone to flooding that the group had to put their server on a chair.
From those humble beginnings, IHS Markit now has more than 15,000 employees around the world, including 3,000 at an office on Ropemaker Street near Moorgate in the City.
Markit floated on the stock market in June 2014 with a $4.28bn (£3.16bn) price tag that made multimillionaires out of dozens of employees.
The merger with IHS followed and Mr Uggla, who now has British citizenship as well as a season ticket at Arsenal, became chief executive at the end of 2017.
Mr Uggla, the son of a Vancouver sawmill manager, currently owns shares in IHS Markit worth approximately $119m (£88m) but is thought to be worth several hundred million pounds more than that after selling down some of his shareholding when Markit floated six years ago.
He is to stay on as a special adviser to the enlarged company for a year before stepping away.
That, of course, is assuming the deal goes ahead in this form.
A counter bid from ICE is possible.
And so, too, is a drawn-out competition enquiry.
Regulators are concerned about the power of an increasingly small pool of data providers that are effectively becoming gatekeepers to particular financial markets.
It could be a while yet before this mega-deal completes.