Restaurant reservations, driving directions and other indicators Wall Street is watching

Investors and analysts are tracking a number of unconventional metrics as they try to predict the stock market’s trajectory.

  • By Akane Otani and Michael Wursthorn,
  • The Wall Street Journal
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Traders are no longer just watching economic data to decide what to buy and when.

In the Covid-19 world, firms across Wall Street are turning to a number of unconventional metrics to gauge where the market is heading.

Market watchers’ chatter across Twitter (TWTR) no longer just focuses on broad indicators like jobless claims and retail sales. Now it encompasses breakdowns of everything from restaurant bookings to traffic at U.S. airports, all of which analysts suggest can help them figure out how well the economy is recovering from the downturn triggered by the pandemic.

Here is a look at some of the most commonly cited indicators, and what they are telling us:

1. Restaurant reservations

Consumer spending is a major driver of economic activity. One easy way to track spending? Taking a look at who is dining out. Restaurant reservations, which plunged in mid-March and April, have begun to recover nationally—although they remain below prepandemic levels.

2. Travel through airports

Although many businesses around the country have begun to reopen, people still remain wary of flying, data show.

3. Searches for directions

People have been more willing to travel by foot or in a car, according to Apple Inc.’s (AAPL) mobility data. However, searches for public-transportation directions have been slower to recover, suggesting many people continue to avoid subways and buses.

4. Retail-store traffic

Visits to retail stores have ticked up as economies reopen, but foot traffic remains below prepandemic levels.

5. Dining at home

As many cities begin the process of reopening brick-and-mortar businesses, online spending on grocery pickup and delivery has fallen off.

6. New Covid-19 cases

The share of positive Covid-19 test results and number of Covid-19 deaths nationally have generally declined, an encouraging sign for investors. Many, however, say they are on the alert for the potential of another surge in cases as more businesses reopen.

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