IMF keen to monitor trade in real time

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The IMF wants to get figures to economists and businesses faster than before.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said that using a new methodology to monitor maritime shipment data could help to provide information on trade in real-time.

Until now, there has always been a lag on the figures provided to assess trade activity, with data often coming in from previous quarters many weeks after they have ended.

However, writing in its Working Papers, the IMF said using maritime information from the Automatic Identification System (AIS) could put an end to this and provide up-to-date statistics on imports, exports and the global economy.

The organisation explained that by collecting data from the radio signals the global vessel fleet emits, it would be possible to identify port boundaries and estimate trade volumes at the world, bilateral and within-country levels.

Indeed, in tests, the IMF's indicators correlated closely to both monthly official trade statistics and quarter-on-quarter growth rates, suggesting they could be an appropriate alternative.

Furthermore, the IMF believes such information could also be used to monitor trade during events such as severe hurricanes and the current coronavirus pandemic.

"Daily monitoring of trade developments in real time will help provide a reliable early warning regarding potential economic contagion effects," the IMF said in a blog post.