Recovery tracker: Power, freight indicators show strong gains over 2019

Activity had ground to a halt after a national shutdown to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus was announced on March 24.
Key indicators of economic activity are showing signs of further firming up as the unlocking continues into October.

Activity had ground to a halt after a national shutdown to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus was announced on March 24. 

Many of the macroeconomic indicators that track broad activity, such as gross domestic product, are released with a lag. 

Analysts globally have been using the high frequency indicators to get a current picture of the situation on the ground. 

Business Standard tracks these weekly indicators. These include traffic congestion, pollution levels, search engine Google’s location data, in addition to power and freight. 

Google’s data is as of September 27 since it is released with a lag.  Freight data is as of October 3. 

Power, pollution, and traffic data are as of October 4.

Power generation is around 16 per cent higher now than it was in 2019. The data is based on a seven-day rolling average. This has been higher than the 2019 levels for 27 days on the trot. Trains ferrying goods are another indicator showing signs of pick-up. Goods carried now are 23.5 per cent higher than last year. Earnings are also higher by a similar figure.  

Traffic congestion numbers from global location technology firm TomTom International show that Delhi traffic is around 29 per cent lower than the same week in 2019. This is similar to the levels seen over the past few weeks. Mumbai showed a dip in congestion. It is now 40 per cent below 2019. This shows a decline over last week, when it was only 33 per cent below last year’s level.

The difference in activity is also seen in the levels of emission. Business Standard tracks the 
levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) — a key component of urban air pollution. The nitrogen oxides (NOx, of which NO2 is one component) are emitted from any combustion process. Coal- and gas-fired power plants and vehicles constitute the major anthropogenic (human-produced) sources.

NO2 levels are down 92 per cent in Mumbai, based on Bandra locality readings. Delhi numbers are more than 36 per cent higher than they were in 2019, showing the difference in relative activity levels between the two metros. Google’s mobility reports show that workplace visits are stagnant. It also shows more people spending time at home.

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