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A Note on Monitoring Daily Economic Activity Via Electronic Transaction Data


  • John Galbraith
  • Greg Tkacz


Economists have traditionally relied on monthly or quarterly data supplied by central statistical agencies for macroeconomic monitoring. However, technological advances of the past several years have resulted in new high-frequency data sources that could potentially provide more accurate and timely information on the current level of economic activity. In this paper we explore the usefulness of electronic transactions as real-time indicators of economic activity, using Canadian debit card data, and using two potentially important economic events as examples. In particular we are able to analyze expenditure patterns around the September 11 terrorist attacks and the August 2003 electrical blackout, and are able to note qualitative differences in the effects of these events which could not be observed through aggregate measures. Les économistes se sont traditionnellement appuyés sur les données mensuelles ou trimestrielles publiées par les agences centrales de statistiques pour suivre la situation macroéconomique. Cependant, les avancées technologiques qui ont été réalisées au cours des dernières années ont entraîné de nouvelles sources de données à haute fréquence, et ces dernières pourraient potentiellement donner lieu à une information plus exacte et plus opportune sur l'état actuel de l'activité économique. Dans le document actuel, nous explorons l'utilité des transactions électroniques comme indicateurs en temps réel de l'activité économique. Pour ce faire, nous recourons aux données canadiennes sur les cartes de débit et utilisons, à titre d'exemples, deux événements économiques susceptibles d'être importants. Plus particulièrement, nous sommes en mesure d'analyser la structure des dépenses lors des attaques terroristes du 11 septembre et de la panne d'électricité d'août 2003 et de noter des différences qualitatives dans les répercussions de ces événements, lesquelles ne pourraient être observées en recourant aux mesures globales.

Suggested Citation

  • John Galbraith & Greg Tkacz, 2009. "A Note on Monitoring Daily Economic Activity Via Electronic Transaction Data," CIRANO Working Papers 2009s-23, CIRANO.
  • Handle: RePEc:cir:cirwor:2009s-23

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Ariel Burstein & Martin Eichenbaum & Sergio Rebelo, 2005. "Large Devaluations and the Real Exchange Rate," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(4), pages 742-784, August.
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    3. Martin D. D. Evans, 2005. "Where Are We Now? Real-Time Estimates of the Macroeconomy," International Journal of Central Banking, International Journal of Central Banking, vol. 1(2), September.
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    5. Judith A. Chevalier & Anil K. Kashyap & Peter E. Rossi, 2003. "Why Don't Prices Rise During Periods of Peak Demand? Evidence from Scanner Data," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(1), pages 15-37, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Valentina Aprigliano & Guerino Ardizzi & Libero Monteforte, 2017. "Using the payment system data to forecast the Italian GDP," Temi di discussione (Economic working papers) 1098, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.

    More about this item


    debit cards; electronic transactions; monitoring ; cartes de débit; transactions électroniques; suivi;

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