Power generation, rail freight show gains among weekly economic indicators

Photo: Reuters
Power generation numbers and the amount of goods that the Indian railways carried point to improved in economic activity, compared to last week.

Other weekly indicators that Business Standard tracks show a more mixed trend. Google mobility data, traffic congestion numbers and pollution statistics are among the other high-frequency indicators tracked to give an on-ground picture of the economy ahead of macroeconomic data such as gross domestic product (GDP), which is released with a lag. Analysts across the world have been tracking such indicators as a means of keeping an eye on the economy amid lockdowns to control the Covid-19 pandemic. All data is as of Sunday, except Google numbers, which appear with a lag.

The seven-day rolling average power generation data shows that India is generating 98 per cent of the power that it used to in 2019. This had fallen to 71.3 per cent during the lockdown as factories and offices shut down, and industrial activity ground to a halt. There is a rising trend compared to the previous week (see chart 1).

The Indian Railways also carried more goods over the week ending Sunday, than they had for the same week last year. It also earned more money from the freight carried than over the comparable period last year (see chart 2).

While national trends were positive, there do seem some differences across key cities. Traffic in Mumbai edged higher in the last week, shows data from location technology firm TomTom International. It is still significantly lower than the recovery seen in Delhi (see chart 3).

The difference is even more stark in the pollution data.  Business Standard tracks nitrogen dioxide levels. The pollutant is the result of industrial activity and vehicular emissions. Mumbai’s emissions are down 87 per cent compared to 2019. Delhi is only down 18 per cent (see chart 4,5).

Google’s mobility reports show a marginal decline in people making workplace visits. The search engine looks at anonymised location data to identify visits in proportion to normal times. Workplace visits are down 29.57 per cent as of 1st September 2020, compared to the baseline value on a seven-day rolling average basis (see chart 6).

The economy has shown sign of an unsteady recovery with reversals along the way, after a disastrous June quarter. The GDP contracted 23.9 per cent showed numbers that the government released on August 31.

International Monetary Fund chief economist Gita Gopinath said

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