Recovery tracker: Power puts a bright spot on otherwise lacklustre revival

High-frequency indicators of economic activity are making headway more slowly after the initial gains of unlocking. This comes amid reports of the government planning another stimulus to help jump-start the economy.

Goods carried by train and workplace visits were among the high-frequency indicators that gave up some gains for the latest week. Business Standard tracks railway freight, visits to various categories of popular destination including workplaces, emissions, traffic and electricity generation. These indicators provide a more current picture of the economy ahead of macroeconomic numbers like gross domestic product (GDP), which are released with a lag. Analysts globally have tracked such numbers to make sense of the economy during the Covid-19 pandemic. All data are as of November 1 (Sunday), except Google’s. The search engine’s numbers are released with a lag and are as of October 27.

Google uses anonymised location to track mobility. People had largely stayed at home during the lockdown, which began in March. Unlocking since June had seen more people going to office. The latest numbers show that workplace visits are now 75 per cent of normal. This figure was closer to 80 per cent a week before. Retail, grocery and pharmacy visits have risen (see chart 1).

The yearly gains in the quantity of goods that the Indian Railways carried dropped from 10.6 per cent last week to 4.4 per cent. Earnings from these goods dropped into negative territory. It was 8.2 per cent lower for the latest week compared to the same period last year (see chart 2).

see chart 3, 4).

International location technology firm TomTom International showed a decline in traffic congestion for Mumbai, while New Delhi numbers remained the same. In both cities traffic is down by around a quarter from 2019 levels (see chart 5).

Electricity generation has, however, been a bright spot. The numbers are 19.8 per cent higher than in 2019. This is also higher than the nine per cent gains recorded last week. The seven-day rolling average figures had seen a decline of nearly 30 per cent at the height of the lockdown as factories and offices remained shut (see chart 6).

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