Weekly economic indicators: Spike in retail footfalls, net use tones down

Topics India economy | Retail | Coronavirus

Both Mumbai and New Delhi had been seeing a rise in traffic congestion as more people stepped out and went to work
The steady improvement in people visiting retail and recreational outlets seems to have slowed down.  Traffic congestion, pollution and internet data also show a moderation in the pace at which economic activity is picking up as the country comes out of a lockdown which has been on since the end of March.

The lockdown imposed to stop the spread of Covid-19 caused many economic indicators to plummet. This cannot immediately be tracked in a lot of key data points such as gross domestic product and trade data, since they often only quarterly or monthly. Analysts in China and other afflicted countries looked to other data points which can act as higher frequency proxies to economic activity. This helps keep track of the fast-changing situation on the ground.

Business Standard tracks indicators such as Google’s location tracking data, traffic congestion numbers, pollution, power generation, internet speeds and the quantity of goods carried by the Indian railways. Most indicators are tracked for the weekend. Some such as internet speeds and Google’s mobility data, appear with a lag.

Google tracks visits to various categories of places including retail and recreational spots. This has shown a steady improvement in previous weeks. The latest data for the period ending June 23rd shows that footfalls haven’t been rising beyond a point. Visits are still down nearly 60 per cent from normal levels. Business Standard looked at a seven-day rolling average across categories (see chart 1).

Source: Google LLC "Google COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports", Business Standard calculations | Note:Chart shows visits to places by category, based on Google location data. Latest data is as of June 23rd. The percentage change is compared to a baseline value for the same day of the week, calculated on a median basis during the 5- week period Jan 3–Feb 6, 2020. The chart shows a seven-day rolling average.

This moderation also seems borne out by traffic data from location technology firm TomTom International which is more recent (for the week ending June 28). Both Mumbai and New Delhi had been seeing a rise in traffic congestion as more people stepped out and went to work. This recovery also seems to have taken a pause (see chart 2).

Source:TomTom International | Note: Shows a representative unit change based on weighted averages derived from hourly data. Each week starts on Monday and ends on Sunday.

Industrial and vehicular emissions contain nitrogen dioxide.  The levels of this pollutant dropped off as the country began to shut down. Mumbai still shows minimal levels shows data as of Saturday. Delhi had seen a narrowing of emissions compared to the same period last year.  The gap shows signs of widening again (see chart 3, 4).

Source:Central Pollution Control Board | Note:Based on average NO2 levels across stations where data available. Entries which say none are marked as zero. Levels are measured in micrograms per cubic metre of air.

Source:Central Pollution Control Board | Note:Based on average NO2 levels across stations where data available. Entries which say none are marked as zero. Levels are measured in micrograms per cubic metre of air.

Internet speeds are better than they were in the pre-lockdown phase. But they are lower than they were in the previous week, shows data from internet tracker Ookla for the week ending June 21. Internet speeds tend to drop when more people are working from home. This leads to more video conferencing. People also depend more on the internet for entertainment through various platforms (see chart 5).

Source: Ookla | Note:Mbps is megbits per second

Two hard indicators of economic activity show signs of stability.

Power generation remains close to levels seen during the same period last year. It had earlier dropped by over a quarter. The generation gap has shrunk (see chart 6) shows data as of June 27.  The Indian railways are carrying nearly as many goods as they did during the same period last year. The quantity is down 7.43 per cent for the week ending Saturday, which is similar to figures in the previous week.  Earnings from carrying goods are also down by around 15 per cent. This is also in line with what was seen in the previous week (See chart 7).

Trend in daily electricity generation | Source: National Load Despatch Centre

Source:Indian Railways



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