Illustration: Ajay Mohanty
The economy showed renewed signs of improvement as large parts of the country geared up for Diwali. Many weekly indicators of economic activity saw a rise with trains carrying more goods and retail visits rising.
Analysts globally have been tracking high frequency proxies for economic activity to get a sense of the fast-changing situation on the ground amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Business Standard tracks traffic congestion, pollution levels, power generation; besides railway numbers and mobility data from search engine Google. They provide a more current picture of the economy ahead of official data. Most of the data is as of Sunday 8th November. Google’s mobility data comes with a lag. The latest is for November 3.
The Indian railways carried 13.2 per cent more goods during the seven days ended Sunday, than the same period last year (see chart 1). The number was 4.4 per cent for the previous week. It also made 6.2 per cent more money than 2019 from these goods, compared to an 8.2 per cent decline seen the previous week.
Visits to retail and recreation spots were at 70.14 per cent of normal, showed Google’s mobility report. This matches the highest level seen since the lockdown announced in March. Similar levels had been seen in the last week of October too. The search engine uses anonymised location data to track how people are moving during the pandemic. The uptick coincides with Diwali which is usually seen to be a good time for sales. Workplace visits were also higher than 10 days ago (see chart 2).
Traffic congestion in the financial capital of Mumbai was at 83 per cent of 2019 levels. It was 73 per cent for New Delhi, showed data from global location technology firm TomTom International. Mumbai traffic had lagged New Delhi for much of the period after the lockdown ended (see chart 3).
Emissions of nitrogen dioxide in Delhi were 55 per cent higher than in 2019. Business Standard tracks the pollutant as it comes from industrial activity and vehicles. Mumbai’s emissions, based on Bandra locality data, shows a 98.3 per cent decline from 2019 levels (see charts 4,5).
Power generation numbers were close to 12 per cent higher than during the same period in 2019. The gains were higher in the previous week when they were around 20 per cent higher than last year. They had dropped by nearly 30 per cent at the peak of the lockdown when factories and offices had shut down (see chart 6).