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Posts tagged with: "USEPUINDXD"

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A friendly warning: Data aren’t perfect

Graphing data can reveal issues that spreadsheets may not

“The greatest value of a picture is when it forces us to notice what we never expected to see.” – John Tukey

FRED gives you the option of downloading data into a spreadsheet. Of course, it’s also common to present the data in graph form, which is much easier on the eyes. But plotting your data is exceptionally important for other reasons.

A graph can give the numbers a clear and convincing voice. And it can also reveal the unexpected. Because your eyes can quickly catch something that simply looks wrong, you may observe the existence of data issues on a graph that would not be immediately apparent when looking only at the numbers.

The FRED graph above plots three vintages of the Economic Policy Uncertainty Index from January 5 (blue), 6 (red), and 7 (green) of 2021. The plots are indistinguishable until December 9, 2020, where the January 6 vintage jumps to a series maximum of over 1,000 before dropping to a constant value of 10.92. Notice that there are also some minor differences between values in the January 5 and January 7 vintages. While it’s normal for data vintages (even those that are a day apart) to differ slightly, the large discrepancies in the January 6 vintage clearly stem from data issues…

As it turns out, this vintage contains incorrect values. And that only became clear because we plotted the data. Had we not done that, the issue would have remained undetected and may have caused further errors during our application of the data.

Search the FRED Blog for more posts about the Economic Policy Uncertainty Index.

How this graph was created: Browse FRED data by category. Under the category “Academic Data,” select “Economic Policy Uncertainty” and then the not seasonally adjusted version of the series “Economic Policy Uncertainty Index for United States.” From the “Edit Graph” panel, select the vintage for 2021-01-05. From the “Edit Bars” tab, click “Edit Bar 2” and select the vintage for 2021-01-06. Using the “Add Line” tab, create another line with the same series and edit bar 3 to be the vintage 2021-01-07. Change the graph type and colors to taste using the “Format” tab. Last, change the range by using the scroller directly below the graph or choose specific dates by typing them into the white boxes just above the graph.

Suggested by Aaron Amburgey and Michael McCracken.

View on FRED, series used in this post: USEPUINDXD

Do we live in uncertain times?

Ever wonder about the current state of the world? Well, FRED has two relevant indicators for the U.S. that may help you sleep better at night…or maybe worry even more. The first series calculates an index based on the proportion of newspaper stories that discuss uncertainty, changes to tax codes, and disagreement among forecasters. The second series relates more to market sentiment by looking at newspaper stories mentioning the economy, stock markets, and (again) uncertainty specifically. The graph above shows that the two series correlate well, but aren’t in total lock-step. Right now, the first series seems to be about as high as it was during the last financial crisis, although it hasn’t spiked as high as it did in September 2008. The second series shows that the market seems a little less worried about uncertainty, but overall it’s still elevated.

Similar series are available for a few other countries. The graph below shows one for the U.K. The Brexit referendum took place on June 23, 2016, which has clearly contributed to their spike in economic uncertainty in the summer of 2016. And that uncertainty is still elevated compared with previous periods.

How these graphs were created: Search FRED for “uncertainty,” select the series, and click “Add to Graph.”

Suggested by Christian Zimmermann.

View on FRED, series used in this post: UKEPUINDXM, USEPUINDXD, WLEMUINDXD

Economic policy uncertainty

How clear is the public’s understanding of economic policy and its likely outcomes? FRED includes a data series that seeks to answer this question: In a recent paper, Scott Baker, Nicholas Bloom, and Steven Davis developed an index that estimates the level of uncertainty about economic policy by accounting for newspaper references to uncertainty, tax codes, and disagreement among forecasters.

The authors refer to spikes in the index that occurred during important events such as “tight presidential elections, Gulf Wars I and II, the 9/11 attack, and other major shocks.” More-recent events include the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy, the euro crisis, and the debt-ceiling deadlock.

The Federal Reserve has been making an effort to reduce uncertainty by increasing clarity and transparency with respect to its policies. As noted in a previous blog post, FRED also allows you to track the projections made by FOMC members. (Read full-text FOMC statements back to 2009 on the Board’s website.)

How this graph was created: Search for “Economic Policy Uncertainty Index” and change the frequency to “Weekly, Ending Friday.”

Suggested by Abhinav Chhabra

View on FRED, series used in this post: USEPUINDXD

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