Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Sources for Global Economics Time Series Data

Recent student queries at the desk have included requests for inflation index data for Japan, cash reserve ratios (CRR) for various countries, and the effective exchange rates for Euro zone countries. While the electronic databases (Reuters, Datastream, Bloomberg) are generally the most complete sources for economic data at monthly or quarterly periodicities, using them requires commitment and instruction. In addition to the databases the library subscribes to, web-based sources include:

Central Banks

Collins Dictionary of Business defines a Central Bank as “a country's leading bank generally responsible for overseeing the banking system, acting as a ‘clearing’ banker for the commercial banks and for implementing monetary policy”. In addition, many central banks are responsible for handling the government's budgetary accounts and for managing the country's external monetary affairs, in particular the exchange rate.

Examples of central banks include the US's Federal Reserve, Germany's Deutsche Bundesbank, France's Banque de France and the European Union's European Central Banks. (Source: Credo, accessed 12/16)

Their websites often provide access to data related to their country’s currency, rate of exchange, price data, discount rates, and balances of payment. A comprehensive list of central bank websites can be found at the Bank for International Settlements Central Banks Listing

It should be noted that there is no standardization of what is reported directly by central banks.


Government Offices

Many countries also release economics statistics through a central agency. For example, the Japan Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications provides a comprehensive selection of time series, including CPI.

Russia does the same through Russian's Federal State Statistics Service

Obviously, names of agencies and their URL’s are not intuitive. I have found the best way to search for them is to type the name of the statistic you are looking for, as well as the country suffix in the source parameter in Google. For example, entering CONSUMER PRICE INDEX: .AU returns the Australian Bureau of Statistics in search results.

Global Organizations

The Bank for International Settlements (BIS) acts as a central bank for central banks. It was established in 1930 to manage the reparation payments imposed on Germany and has evolved to act as an agent/trustee for cross-national transactions, as a counterparty for central banks, and a publisher of global monetary research. (Timothy Geithner, Obama’s nominee for Treasury Secretary and president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, has chaired the BIS since 2005.)

The BIS produces a comprehensive time series of exchange rates, as well as banking, debt, payment, and balance of payments statistics through their statistics page The BIS is also a sponsor of the Statistical Data and Metadata Exchange (SDMX) initiative, the goal of which is to develop a standard set of metadata for the transmission of global statistical data. Central banks, Eurostat, IMF, OECD, World Bank and the UN are also actively involved in the SDMX.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) was founded in 1944 to oversee the international monetary system post-WWII and has continuously worked to ensure global economic stability through oil crises, and now the current global recession. It is now an organization of 185 member countries and engages in economic surveillance, technical assistance, and lending to countries which cannot find affordable financing. “The IMF publishes a range of time series data on lending, exchange rates and other economic and financial indicators. Manuals, guides, and other material on statistical practices at the IMF, in member countries, and of the statistical community at large are also available.”

The United Nations is a good source for national accounts and trade time series statistics. The UN database portal contains listings of economic data.

The World Bank was established in 1944 to manage the financing of post-war reconstruction. It has evolved to having the primary mission of working with developing countries to reduce poverty. Noteworthy statistics available on the WB website include world development indicators, such as debt of the 135 low and middle income countries, and GDP.

Other statistics such as poverty levels, education, etc. must be ordered.

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