A near real-time economic activity tracker for the Brazilian economy during the COVID-19 pandemic

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During the COVID-19 pandemic, policymakers needed to assess the impact of large monetary and fiscal policy interventions in as close to real time as possible—yet existing survey-based indicators are usually released monthly or quarterly. The use of high-frequency data to track economic activity has become widespread. This paper constructs a near real-time economic activity indicator for the Brazilian economy during the COVID-19 pandemic. Brazil's integrated national electricity sector, which covers over 98% of the population, allows us to construct an economic activity indicator based solely on electricity consumption data that are available at near real time and accounts for activity in the large informal sector of the economy. We construct our indicator by isolating the variability in electricity consumption that is not related to economic activity, then measure how well monthly and quarterly versions of our indicator track against standard economic indicators. The results show strong correlation with standard indicators, notably during economic shocks.


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