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Central bankers among those hungry for alternative data to navigate coronavirus crisis

Investors, governments and central bankers are using new sources of data to understand the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.


On February 28, foot traffic in three busy retail areas in Seattle started dropping. From 373,801 visitors to South Lake Union on that Friday, pedestrian footfall steadily declined so that by Wednesday, March 4, it was just 242,985.

This was not the case in other US cities, such as Boston, where retail shopping was climbing year on year due to a milder winter, but then other US cities had not been so close to the US’s first reported outbreak and deaths from the coronavirus Covid-19.

Washington State, of which Seattle is the largest city, was home to the first case in the US in January, and also home to the country’s first death from the virus announced on February 29.


The data are part of an alternative dataset that an increasing number of investors, as well as governments and central bankers, are turning to for help in navigating the current crisis that has sent stock markets around the world reeling.

This particular data are from, a New York-based alternative data firm offering real-time location intelligence.

“What this real-time data showed for example was what would likely happen in other US cities – and indeed what did happen one week later,” says Wei Pan, chief data scientist at Thasos.

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