The Labs Report – COVID-19 vs. The Economy
Welcome to this week’s edition of The Labs Report.
In this edition, we’ll be examining how COVID-19 (the official name for the novel coronavirus spreading across the globe) has affected conversation about the economy over the past week.
In Focus: COVID-19 Makes an Impact
Because there is so much noise around the state of the economy at present – as well as COVID-19 itself – we decided to focus our analysis by examining the seven key economic indicators as laid out by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.
To better understand the impact of COVID-19 on conversations around these key economic indicators, we analyzed every mention that referenced each of our seven key indicators and COVID-19 across the entire media spectrum over the last week, compiling one mean impact, or Media Quality Score, for each indicator.
Media Quality Score (MQS), a metric developed by Zignal Labs, employs natural language processing and AI to measure the impact of a piece of media coverage, producing a score ranging from -10 (higher negative impact) to +10 (higher positive impact). See here for more details on how this score is generated.
In the above chart, the blue bar shows the volume of stories that mention a particular economic indicator in conjunction with COVID-19. The purple bar shows the mean Media Quality Score for the associated coverage.
Using the above MQS visualization as a starting point, we dug deeper into data around each indicator to uncover insights about COVID-19’s unfolding impact on the economy.
Let’s start with the stock market indicator, which averaged a mean, negative impact score of -1.19. The biggest spike in conversation (unsurprisingly tied strongly to negative sentiment) happened the morning of Friday, February 28th, with news and broadcast stories about the Dow’s 1,000 point freefall dominating the conversation.
In conversations throughout the week, the top five most-discussed economies in relation to COVID-19’s effect on the stock market were 1) the U.S.; 2) China; 3) Italy; 4) Japan; and 5) Germany (all countries currently at the epicenter of the outbreak).
Turning our attention to the nonfarm payrolls & unemployment rate indicator, we saw that despite (or perhaps due to) the fact that this indicator saw the least amount of COVID-19 related chatter, it saw the highest positive MQS score of the week (+1.22).
Top stories of the week included this piece from The Daily Signal (a conservative-leaning news site) which, following the lead of chief White House economist Larry Kudlow, says that socialism, not COVID-19 is the bigger threat to the U.S. economy.
Further afield (and balancing out the positive impact of the previous story), a popular piece from India Today reported that India’s economy unemployment rate rose in February, a result of the country’s slowest economic growth in six years, and noted that the impact of COVID-19 could only make things worse.
Retail sales took a big hit this week, with the most negative impact score of our seven indicators (-2.06).
A large part of the conversation this week seemed to center around automotive sales, namely around the fact that China’s passenger car sales dropped 80% in February due to repercussions of COVID-19’s spread in the country.
Finally, the economic indicator that saw the most chatter (see the impressive spike in the chart below) in relation to COVID-19 this week was, unsurprisingly, the announcements & minutes from the Federal Reserve.
We say unsurprisingly because, well, this week marked the first time the Federal Reserve announced an emergency, in-between-scheduled-meetings interest rate cut since the 2008 financial crisis, and everyone (Twitter especially) had a lot to say about the half-percentage-point cut.
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