Dirk Willem te Velde (ODI) | Using high frequency data to monitor the economic impacts of crises

Dirk Willem te Velde (Principal Research Fellow, ODI)

18 May 2020

A multitude of trackers cover policy responses to COVID-19 but when it comes to up-to-date monitoring of actual social and economic impacts there appears to be a gap. Impact data are not collected systematically and in a comprehensive manner. Obtaining access to reliable, good quality statistical data for the poorest countries is a challenge; it is even more difficult to monitor economic data in real time or at high frequency and with a short time lag.

ODI has monitored a range of macroeconomic crises (e.g. the global financial crisis, the Eurozone crisis and crises related to oil prices and food price hikes) using economic data. This work provides lessons with regard to what high frequency data can be used to monitor the impacts of COVID-19 globally, and specifically those on the poorest countries.

The table below presents data sources in the following areas:

  • Commodity prices, food prices and hunger;
  • Global and bilateral trade, trade costs and mobility;
  • Capital markets, finance flows and fiscal and monetary statistics; and
  • Employment and production.

High frequency data are published daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly. Some are available immediately; some come with a time lag of a few days or weeks; yet others take several months to become available. Some data include noise (rather than signal) and much variability; others are cleaned, adjusted for variability or more robust. Some data are publicly available (we focus mostly on these); others are available behind a paywall.

So far, data for commodity and food prices appear to be covered well, perhaps in part because the G20 has paid attention to monitoring these for several years. Trade data are also available but with a time lag. Data on capital markets and finance flows are available but patchy, and often behind paywalls for use by investors. High frequency data on employment and production tend to be weakest: they are not available for a few months and there are well-known challenges with such data.


Commodity prices, food prices and hunger
   Source and frequencyComments on useHyperlinks and examples
Commodity prices (global prices)Available immediately (e.g. FT for oil/copper prices; IMF/WB weekly/monthly averages with a short time lag (a few weeks)Variable reflecting many issues such as supply/demand and othersOil price (paywall)  


World Bank Price data (pink sheet)  

Food prices (domestic prices)FAO food prices, monthly (a week time lag)   IFPRI’s Food Price Monitor covers daily price data for domestic markets in India, Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi   National statistics officesLocalised data patchyFAO food price index  

IFPRI dashboard
HungerWFP, number of people with insufficient food consumption, countries with very high levels of hunger, updated daily and weeklyLimited countries now (9 African now) but 16 more planned in coming weeks; it is a forecast. Weekly snapshots for 14 countriesWFP Food Hunger Map  

WFP daily report  

Weekly snapshots
COVID cases, deathsDaily across countriesAvailable widely, commonly used sources but difficult to compare across countriesJohns Hopkins
High frequency telephone interviews around social and food security impactsMonthly updates from May 2020. Cover topics including (i) knowledge of existence of and channels of transmission of COVID-19; (ii) knowledge of and compliance with preventive measures with specific emphasis on social distancing and self-isolation; (iii) prices and access to food and non-food necessities; (iv) employment; (v) food insecurity; and (6) subjective well-being – with a focus on understanding the dynamics of economic impactsOnce available will be very valuable, for Ethiopia, Malawi, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda     LSMS high frequency phone surveys,
Global and bilateral trade, trade costs and mobility
   Source and frequencyComments on useHyperlinks and examples
Trade costs Baltic Exchange Dry Index Trading Economics, dailySpecific cost measure, does not cover many transport uses/modesTrading Economics
World tradeCPB world trade indicator, monthly, available with a one- to two-month time lag     IMF tracking of world trade using real-time shipping dataPartly a leading indicator, partly real data   Uses data for dry bulk, contain, vehicle, oil shipping dataCPB indicator described in FT      
IMF tracker
Bilateral tradeNational statistics office and ITC trade map (monthly data for major countries such as UK, EU, US, China and Japan available with a six-week time lag; annual data for low-income country source)   International data reported monthly with time lag (UN Comtrade)Trade data variable but long-runs are availableUK monthly trade stats  

German monthly data  

Mobility and entertainmentAircraft departures, bus and rail journeys; Google searches for entertainment, seated diners, retail footfall (updated daily)   Google Mobility data for retail, grocery, parks, transit, workplaces, residential visits (weekly)  Not easily available beyond reports       Google data for all countries on a weekly basisBank of England Monetary Policy Report Chart 2.26    

COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports
Capital markets, finance flows and monetary statistics
 Source and frequencyComments on useHyperlinks and examples
RemittancesCentral banks, monthly data, available with one to three months time lagCan vary much between monthsNigeria  

Stock market prices, exchange rates, bond yieldsAvailable daily and immediately, e.g. FT or central bank    Bond prices and bond spreads (yield difference countries and safe havens such as US/German bonds)Varied sources but often subscription is needed   FT/Bloomberg often report statistics/figuresFT (paywall)
Private capital flows to emerging marketsIIF monthly updates on portfolio flow but not FDI flows, available with one to two years of lag (committed FDI data more recent)Lacks country detailsIIF
Bank lending statisticsBIF international bank lending, quarterly, available with five-month time lag BIS
Monetary statistics (central bank)Central banks maintain monthly and quarterly data on the monetary base and broad money, credit aggregates (e.g. to the private sector) and foreign assets and liabilities. Includes claims by banks on governmentQuality data on a select number of variablesKenya
Debt interest paymentsMonthly/quarterly, central bank websites, lags can be six months Kenya (Table 13)  

Nigeria debt service in 2019  
Aid flowsOECD DAC   Humanitarian finance: COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response PlanDAC (and national) data are available with long time gaps (a year) but humanitarian finance data are updated weekly; announcements are availableOCHA  

ODI donor announcement tracker
Employment and production
 Source and frequencyComments on useHyperlinks and examples
EmploymentILOSTAT provides monthly and quarterly labour force statistics (with a time lag of at least two months)Up-to-date data are patchy with respect to country coverageILO COVID-19 and labour market statistics
ProductionNational accounts, quarterly, available with six-week time lag in developed countries, or a lag of three to five months in some poorer countries   UNIDO has recent data on industrial production, e.g. for the US, China, Russia, Korea, Vietnam, Argentina, Chile, PolandData available with long time lag, and industrial production data cover few countriesUNIDO on impact of COVID-19 on manufacturing  
Others (selected)
 Source and frequencyComments on useHyperlinks and examples
Data PortalsWorld Bank, updated in an ongoing manner   Several others exist   ODI’s tracker of trackers (tba) Datasets from the World Bank

  World Bank: COVID and trade  

UN Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data

Photo: Changes in food prices as a result of Covid-19.  John Mackedon / World Bank . CC BY-NC-ND 2.0