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Measuring economic activity in times of uncertainty

In times of uncertainty, indicators that measure economic activity and sentiment can commonly diverge, and the financial behaviours of businesses and consumers can be inconsistent with their economic expectations. In this report, we explore alternative data sources that we believe give a clearer picture of macroeconomic outcomes. We illustrate these examples in the context of Brexit and the global financial crisis – which highlight the difference that financial uncertainty and political uncertainty have on the macroeconomy. 


The European Commission’s monthly consumer confidence survey measures expectations on economic conditions and personal financial situations. Economists and industry analysts use the 12 monthly questions to build various types of consumer confidence indices. Although responses for expectations on ‘general economic situation over next 12 months’ has been volatile over the last two decades, household expenditure data from the ONS has exhibited a general upward consistency, only significantly dipping during the financial crisis.

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Analyst Contact

Julia Asri Meigh Head of ESG Data Research (London)