9 Offbeat Economic Indicators Loved By Econ-Hipsters

This past weekend, we learned that Fonterra is in serious trouble afterthey announced they’d shipped
contaminated products to Asia.
Many people learned this week that Fonterra is the world’s biggest dairy exporter.

We recently featured Fonterra’s dairy index, which tracks the milk and milk product trade, on our list of “hipster indicators” since it functions as an offbeat but representative indicator of worldwide economic activity.

With everyone talking about both Fonterra and the global economy these days, we revisit the list today.

Within its inherent funkiness, we believe, lie data that can shed light on lingering macroeconomic questions. How fast is Asia falling? How fast is the U.S. rising?

Lear Jet Revenue

What is it: Quarterly revenue for private plane manufacturer Lear Corp.

What makes it hipster: Unlike data on manufacturing of other transport goods, private plane sales capture how comfortable mega-firms are feeling -- and the lengths to which they're telling their competitors that they can live like kings.

South Korean Exports

What is it: Monthly trade data from South Korea.

What makes it hipster: Economists call this indicator the 'global canary in the coal mine' as it is the first major economic report to come out on the first of the month. South Korea's exports are heavily tied to China, Japan, and Europe.

US Truck Tonnage

What is it: Monthly measure of truck tonnage from the American Trucking Association.

What makes it hipster: Trucks remain the principal method for transporting most consumer goods. Over 80% of all commercial shipping is done on trucks. So, if stuff is flying off the shelves, this number can help let us know.

Fonterra Dairy Index

What is it: Owned by farmers, Fonterra controls nearly one third of the world's dairy exports. Dairy generates more than 7 per cent of New Zealand's gross domestic product.

What makes it hipster: Dairy consumption can be a good proxy for a country's development: coffee cream, processed cheese, cereal toppings and even pet food are all trappings of the middle class.

Suez Canal Traffic

What is it: Shipping data from Egypt's Suez Canal Authority.

What makes it hipster: We are so over the Baltic Dry Index. Instead, we think traffic through the Suez -- one of the world's most important chokepoints for transferring goods -- can tell us a lot more about the state of global shipping, and by proxy the state of global consumption demand.

Palm Oil Prices

What is it: Daily price movements for the cooking product, derived from the oil palm.

What makes it hipster: Palm oil is a common cooking ingredient in the developing world. So if prices are up, tropical Africa, southeast Asia and Brazil are in good shape. If prices are down, growth is slowing...

Macau Gaming Revenue

What is it: Gross monthly gaming revenue from the world's hottest gambling locale.

What makes it hipster: Chinese GDP is one thing, but you'll know for sure if a slowdown is imminent when mainland business titans stop jetting off to Macau for the weekend.

Air Freight Exports

What is it: Postal carrier data from the worldwide leader.

What makes it hipster: A lot of U.S. exports end up being delivered to our neighbour to the north. This helps filter Canada out, thus capturing the cross section of U.S. output and overseas demand.

Grocery Store Sales

What is it: The grocery component of the government's retail sales data.

What makes it hipster: Food inflation can be noisy; this index can better reflect elasticity of demand in U.S. supermarkets.

For something a little different...

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