I thought I would share some of my favorite free data source on the internet, as I often get questions on where to find such and such or how to calculate this and that. In truth, for the overwhelming majority of my data I use Thomson Reuters Datastream (which is certainly not free!), partly because of the breadth of data, partly because they have a large amount of data found only on their platform, and partly because my business is a one-man shop so efficiency is key (being able to quickly update models and charts is essential).
So here they are - the top 8 free financial, market and macroeconomic online data sources:
1. The IMF World Economic Outlook Database: What I like about this one is how comprehensive it is in terms of coverage of countries (and regions), and the ease of comparability across indicators, and the fact that most of the variables have forecasts/projections for as much as 5 years out. It is primarily economics focused, but there are some financial series too. Usability is good once you get the hang of it (but then again I've been using it for about 10 years!).
2. World Bank Open Data: Similar to the IMF database, this one similarly has top marks on broad coverage of countries, it also has very broad coverage of indicators, including numerous World Bank specific statistics e.g. development indicators. So it's definitely one worth checking out. One thing I would note is that similar to the IMF WEO database, most if not all the data is annual.
3. OECD.Stat: The OECD does a great job of compiling data and calculating a number of very useful indicators, including some key financial/investing indicators such as PPP exchange rates and housing market valuation indicators. The one drawback is that most of their datasets are (unsurprisingly) focused on the OECD economies (mostly developed countries), although they have extended some datasets to the major EM countries.
4. BIS Statistics: The BIS ("central bank of central banks" or Bank for International Settlements) as you might imagine compiles highly central bank relevant data such as derivatives and foreign exchange market data, international banking and flows, and credit, property, and inflation data. Well worth a spot on the macro data source bookmark list.
5. FRED: How could I possibly leave the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis economic data portal off the list! Aside from great coverage of countries and data types it also has handy charting tools to quickly assess the data series and compare/transform. The FRED database has become a staple of casual data observers and professionals alike.
6. Quandl: Similar to FRED, Quandl aggregates data from multiple sources, is relatively easy to use, and allows downloading of the data. The one drawback is that it's not all free, i.e. there are a mix of free data providers and premium data providers which Quandl takes data from - so you will need a budget and a credit card to use this one with free reign.
7. Shiller's S&P500 data: A staple datasource for many professional market strategists, the highly respected Robert Shiller kindly provides the public service of providing the long history (back to the 1800's) of the S&P500 (complete with earnings, dividend, CPI, and 10-year bond yield). I've used this dataset more times than I can remember across my career (and across roles and companies!).
8. Investing.com: One of my favorite financial websites, investing.com has a wide range of up to date pricing information for financial markets (stocks, bonds, commodities, currencies, and economic data). Very easy to use, and great charting tools - it's probably the one financial website I visit the most. What I like is that I can quickly search for a market/instrument/indicator and get a quick look at it. It's also good for seeing market reactions without needing to log on to a platform and you can access it wherever.
So that's it. And these are just my favorites - there are many others out there, and I guess it's a case of you find one that has the data you're looking for and you figure out how to use it and then you keep going back to it when you're off on another data-wild-goose-chase.
Again, these days I get most of my data for charts and modelling from Thomson Reuters Datastream as the refresh process is very efficient (it has a lot of the data that can be found on the sources I've mentioned above, thus it saves time from having to go to many different sources and manually updating). But I certainly pay regular visits to the sites above.
Probably the most important thing as a macro/market analyst is your own resourcefulness and adaptability to make the most of what you have and get the most of what's out there (i.e. getting your hands on the data). And then again, sourcing the data is only the first step in processing and presenting it to create insights that add value, bring perspective, and enable sound decision making. So anyway, hope this helps!
See also: Is Datastream any good?
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