After festive season boost, key economic indicators show declining signs

Business Standard tracks pollution levels, goods ferried by the Indian Railways and consumer visits to various categories of places, in addition to power generation and traffic numbers to understand the fast-changing situation on the ground.

Several key indicators of economic activity have showed signs of moderation after the pre-festive boost.

Business Standard tracks pollution levels, goods ferried by the Indian Railways and consumer visits to various categories of places, in addition to power generation and traffic numbers.

These micro and sector-specific data provide a more current picture of the economy ahead of the release of official macroeconomic statistics such as the Gross Domestic Product and Index of Industrial Production, which appear with a lag of few months.

Analysts globally have been tracking similar indicators to understand the fast-changing situation on the ground as countries grapple with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Few days back, power generation was at levels similar to 2019 and showed moderation on a sequential basis.

The pre-festival spike in generation is now missing.

For nearly a month from the middle of October, power generation was up 12 per cent year-on-year (YoY) on average.

Power generation had slid nearly 30 per cent compared to 2019 during the height of the lockdown, as factories shut down and offices remained closed.

Normalcy returned towards the end of July.

It had slipped below last year’s levels post-DiwaIi and showed a mild recovery recently (see chart 1).

On the other hand, railway freight was up last week after rail traffic resumed in the state of Punjab after a month-long shutdown due to the farmers’ agitation against the new farm laws.

Railway freight figures increased by 7 per cent to 26.37 million tonne until November 29.

On the other hand, freight revenue increased by 7.4 per cent from the previous week to Rs 2,665 crore (see chart 2).

Traffic congestion numbers from global location technology firm TomTom International show that New Delhi traffic was around 31 per cent lower than the figure in the same week in 2019.

Mumbai showed a 32 per cent dip in congestion compared to 2019.

This was compared to a decline of 40 per cent in Mumbai and 39 per cent in New Delhi in the previous week (see chart 3).

Business Standard also tracks levels of nitrogen dioxide in the air.

The emissions arise from industrial activity and vehicles.

Mumbai’s emissions, based on data from Bandra locality, show a 98 per cent decline from 2019.

Delhi’s emissions are around 33 per cent higher than in 2019.

However, both cities reported a moderation in emissions compared to the pre-Diwali surge in the last week of October and the first half of November (see charts 4 and 5).

Search engine Google’s data is released with a lag.

The latest data is as of November 26.

It shows a decline in visits to retail and recreation spots compared to the levels seen in the festive season.

On an average, visits to retail and recreation spots were down 29 per cent last week on a YoY basis, as against a 26 per cent YoY decline a week ago (see chart 6).

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