The IMF Working Papers series is designed to make IMF staff research available to a wide audience. With nearly 300 released each year, working papers cover a wide range of theoretical and analytical topics, including balance of payments, monetary and fiscal issues, global liquidity, and national and international economic developments.
Timely data availability is a long-standing challenge in policy-making and analysis for low-income developing countries. This paper explores the use of Google Trends' data to narrow such information gaps and finds that online search frequencies about a country significantly correlate with macroeconomic variables (e.g., real GDP, inflation, capital flows), conditional on other covariates. The correlation with real GDP is stronger than that of nighttime lights, whereas the opposite is found for emerging market economies. The search frequencies also improve out-of-sample forecasting performance albeit slightly, demonstrating their potential to facilitate timely assessments of economic conditions in low-income developing countries.