Monday, March 03, 2008

Economic slowdown - one leading indicator turns down

We all know the problems with economic data being backward looking. Data about rates of unemployment, GDP growth, inflation etc are all historical. They do not tell you what is happening right now. Nor do they tell you what is likely to happen in the future. You have to guess (usually by extrapolating trends, which has its limitations).

Having been through a few economic cycles over the last few years, I have seen some indications of either a slowing or improving economy. One of those indicators is taxi queues. It may seem trivial, but when the taxi queues get consistently shorter at peak times (usually the early morning rush to get to work and the early- late evening rush to get home), its an indication that things have slowed down. The theory is that many of the professionals (investment bankers, lawyers, accountants) whose work is transaction driven will leave work earlier or leave home later when there is less work to do.

Well, the taxi queues have been noticeably shorter both before and after Chinese New Year than they have been for most of the last year or so. Maybe things are beginning to slow down a bit? (That said, my own work (which is usually correlated with economic activity) has shown no sign of a slow down yet and recent transactions indicate that property prices are still rising.)

If the economy is slowing, maybe I should rethink my policies of being fully invested at all times and not making early repayments of debt?

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