In a previous post I highlighted a small example of how the Onalytica Recession-Index gave a good indication of an impending recession in the UK.
However, I haven’t had the opportunity to conduct a more thorough analysis so I recently asked my colleague, Dr. Andreea Moldovan, to have a look at the Onalytica Recession-Index in relation to GDP. Her findings impressed me.
Figure 1 (below) shows the UK GDP against Recession-Index for UK Economy. The values for GDP are given in quarterly percentage (or relative) change on previous quarter.
The Recession-Index is a 1 month leading indicator and the values on the chart already contain the lead, i.e. Recession-Index at Q1 2010 contains actually data from Dec '09 to Feb '10, etc.
The series have different scales and are represented on different vertical axes, for ease of chart interpretation. The left vertical axis corresponds to the Recession-Index values, while the right axis is for the GDP.
Since Q1 2010 and except for Q4 2010, the Recession-Index correctly predicts the UK GDP direction of growth (increase or decrease) 1 month ahead. On the chart this is reflected by the series having opposite directions: decrease in Recession perception by the population corresponds to a growth in GDP and vice versa. So, in 8 out of 9 situations analysed the prediction is correct.
The lead of the Recession-Index is in practice more than 1 month as the GDP values are announced some time after the end of the quarter.
The same analysis for the US Economy and the conclusion is the same, that the expectation (or fear) of a recession by the population can be used to predict 1 month ahead the direction of growth rate (increase or decrease) of the US GDP.
Figure 2 (below) shows the quarterly values of US GDP (2011 revision) against the Recession-Index in the context of US Economy. As before, the Recession-Index already contains the 1 month lead on the chart, i.e. the Q3 2008 value actually refers to Recession-Index data for Jun '08 - Aug '08, etc.
This time the period analysed is longer, from Q3 2008 to Q2 2012. Except for Q4 2010 and Q3 2011, the Recession-Index is a 1 month leading indicator for the direction of US GDP growth rate (increase or decrease).
In summary, the Onalytica Recession-Index for UK and US respectively predicts the direction of the country’s GDP one month out in 87%(US) to 89%(UK) of the analysed quarters. I would not be surprised if a model, which takes a few more signals (maybe another Onalytica Index) could make the correct prediction every time. Stay tuned!
OECD is now forecasting that the UK economy will enter a recession (story from Telegraph).
From a macro perspective I guess it is not counter-intuitive that growth comes to a halt when the world is engaged in a massive deleveraging operation; and at the same time impacted by the increasing uncertainty caused by the public finances in the Euro Zone.
But reading the forecast from the OECD I couldn’t help think back on the previous posts on this blog about how the change in online sentiment for some time as indicated that a recession was becoming more likely.
The 2nd of August I wrote a this post that showed that those with more influence in the debate on the UK economy was becoming more concerned about a possible recession than the public in general.
Since our influence-weighted analyses usually serves as leading indicators, this was a clear warning sign.
On the 1st of November I wrote this post in which I point out that the Onalytica Recession-Index for the UK economy had reached an all-time high (since April 2010).
In October 2011 the equal-weighted Recession-Index, which represents the sentiment of the board population, actually overtook the influence-weighted, which represents the sentiment of those with more influence in the debate on the UK Economy. The gap has widened in November.
This effectively means that the broad population as a whole are now more convinced that we are heading for a recession and are likely to reign in their spending further.
The Wall Street Journal has a story that economists thinks there is a reduced chance of recession in the U.S.
According to the story 52 economists surveyed in November put the chance of a U.S. recession in the next 12 months at 1-in-4, down from 1-in-3 two months ago.
I checked the Onalytica Recession-Index for the U.S. Economy to see if I could corroborate that. The chart is shown below.
Clearly it shows that there has been a declining anticipation of a recession in the U.S. economy since September.
Comparing the Onalytica Recession-Index for the U.S. economy to the U.K. economy is interesting. The chart below shows the Recession-Index for both economies.
Notice how they were very closely linked until May 2011. After that time the recession concerns were primarily with the U.S. economy. However, after August the outlook for the U.K. economy started to become worse while the perception for the U.S. economy started to improve.
Maybe what the U.K. can hope for is that the U.S. economy starts to grow to an extent that it can help the U.K. avoid recession.
See this article for more information on how these indices are constructed.
The state and trends of the sentiment in the economic debate can be highlighted using Onalytica Indexes.
Onalytica Indexes is a collection of indexes which tracks how online media report on a range of economic and business issues.
Over the years an increasing amount of research has been done into how media reporting can be used as indicators for the state of the economy. Other research has highlighted that the way economic news is reported can explain why consumer sentiment sometimes departs from economic fundamentals.
Onalytica Indexes shares the same basic ideas as these examples; that the level and change in the attention an issue receives in the public debate can increasingly be transformed into an indicator of economic trends.
In practice this is done by continuously collecting a large sample of what is published online about, in this case, the Eurozone economy. The Inflation-Index then measures the amount of articles that make references to what can be interpreted as inflationary issues. This includes the word “inflation” itself, references to increasing prices, that goods and services are becoming more expensive, and so on.
Figure 1 (below) shows the Onalytica Recession-Index for the UK Economy. Notice the sharp and accelerating increase since the low-point in July 2011.
The Recession-Index shown in Figure 1 uses equal weight for all voices. This weighting usually makes the results correlate well with what a popular poll would show.
The interpretation of the graph is thus that the population in general thinks that there is a higher chance of a recession in the UK Economy than they have thought at any time since April 2010.
Figure 2 (below) also shows the Recession- Index, but here all voices are weighted according to their calculated influence on the topic “UK Economy”. This means that national media, influential economists and similar are weighted more than, say a personal blog.
One way of interpreting Figure 2 is that among this group of stakeholders there has also been an increasing expectation (or fear) of a recession in the UK Economy since June, but the increase seems less dramatic.
Comparing Figure 1 and Figure 2 it is clear that “the average person” regards the chance of a recession as higher; both groups regard the chances as dramatically increased since July of 2011.
Clearly, if the government was hoping that consumers were going to feel more optimistic and start spending more, the data seems to be disappointing.
Another example of how the economic sentiment can be better understood using this type of analysis is shown in Figure 3.
Figure 3 (below) shows the Onalytica Crisis-Index for the Euro Zone since April 2010. Clearly the view that a crisis is becoming more likely has been increasing since late April 2011 and although it seems to have dropped slightly in the last three weeks it will be very interesting to follow this index going forward.
A final example shows how combining indices can be very powerful.
Figure 4 (below) shows the Onalytica Recession-Index and Onalytica Inflation-Index for the US Economy since April 2010.
The Recession-Index is used as an indicator of the collective sentiment and indicates that the economy is likely to decline.
As Inflation is a key focus of a growing economy an increase in the Inflation-Index can be interpreted as an expectation of economic growth.
The idea is not that these Indexes should necessarily predict the underlying economic data, but show how the public in general (the equal weighted version) and those with more influence (the influence weighted version) perceive the economy.
I haven’t tested the indexes in Figure 4 against actual GDP or Inflation figures so I can’t comment on those correlations. I have tested them against the S&P500 Index and that looks impressive.