From booze to bulldozers, analysts scour for emerging market data
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"We get more thorough data through going to the companies themselves - not as broad a coverage, but much more timely," Stock aid.
Investment in financial services stocks in Nigeria were boosted by an examination of mobile phone subscriptions.
The monthly data is released within a few weeks where quarterly gross domestic product data takes a few months.
It showed, for example, a 3 percent rise in active mobile phone subscriptions between September and November Nov 2012 to 110 million, in a country with a population of 170 million.
Based on that rise, which brings the December 2011-November 2012 gain in subscriptions to 16 percent, investors expect bank accounts - currently estimated at 20 million - to follow.
As a result, they have bought Nigerian banks, a good call in recent months. Zenith Bank shares, for example, jumped 20 percent in the fourth quarter.
Analysts will have to wait several more weeks for the formal fourth quarter GDP data.
By contrast, analysts point to the speed with which China releases GDP - only a couple of weeks after the end of a quarter - as a sign it may not be accurate, encouraging them to look at other ways to replicate aspects of the data.
Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody's Analytics, watches data from a firm which checks satellite monitors on Chinese construction equipment to see if the machinery is in use.
"That's been an area of concern, whether property markets are becoming overheated," Zandi said. "If they stop growing, that could be a problem for Chinese growth."
In the Gulf, investors may look at anything from hotel occupancy rates, to work visa approvals, to enrolment rates at international schools to assess the level of economic activity.
SURFING AND SUPERMARKETS
Not content with looking at these kinds of things, some investors have developed their own models or turned to those of academics in the search for data that more accurately measures economic trends.