This blog presents the first in a regular series of monthly report cards on the state of global economic activity. The real time activity growth rates are derived from the latest Fulcrum “nowcasts”, based on dynamic factor models. These nowcasts, estimated by Juan Antolin Diaz and colleagues, combine a very large number of different statistical releases to identify a single growth “factor” that is assumed to be driving the economies in question.
The Fulcrum models build on the pioneering work of Lucrezia Reichlin, Domenico Giannone and others at the ECB and LBS. (Professor Reichlin’s subscription service is available here.)
As a San Francisco Fed study pointed out last week, GDP forecasts for the year ahead are not only “persistently optimistic”, but they are typically very significantly affected by the actual GDP data for the most recent quarter. Financial markets are therefore sensitive to quite small swings in activity data. It is important for investors to track the data flow, much of which is confused and contradictory, in the most efficient manner possible. We believe that factor models are helpful in doing this.
Last week, the markets shifted slightly away from pessimism about global growth, with bond yields, commodity prices and US equities all rising for the first time in quite a while. This is in line with the recent information flow, which seems to be be moderately encouraging.
A pick-up in activity in both the Eurozone and Japan is countering, and perhaps more than offsetting, a slowdown in the US. Global retail sales volume is rising strongly as oil price effects feed into consumer confidence, and manufacturing sectors seem to have eliminated the excess inventories that accumulated late last year. In the advanced economies, growth is now running at a significantly above the trend rates derived from the models. But in China, the progressive and gradual slowdown continues.
We show the recent history of results from these models, updated daily, in the graphs below. In future, this blog will update these results soon after the global PMI surveys and the US jobs data are published in the first week of each month. Read more