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Monitoring of business tendencies and economic uncertainty in Russia

Priority areas of development: economics
The project has been carried out as part of the HSE Program of Fundamental Studies.

Goal of research

The general goal of business tendency monitoring by the Centre for Business Tendency Studies ISSEK HSE in the framework of the HSE Basic Research Program is to develop an integrated system of sectoral business tendency and economic uncertainty surveys harmonized with the international standards; implementation of the surveys in the practices of federal statistical observation; development of methodological and analytical support; expansion of the corpus of leading simple and composite indicators to track current and expected profiles in cyclical dynamics of the reference macroeconomic indicators.

In 2017, the main objective of the research is to update the methodological, analytical and visual tools of business tendency monitoring aimed at the sub sectoral diagnostics, in particular:

  •  Assessing external and internal impulses that change business trends taking into account the differences in the size of economic entities, including small businesses;
  •  Measuring the structural changes that are caused by development of the information and communication technologies;
  •  Identifying short-term tendencies in the dynamics of consumer demand, taking into account the inequality of the main parameters and behavioral motives of households;
  •  Expanding information resources that reflect the economic activity in the format of nowcasting;
  •  Developing approaches to the empirical measurement of macroeconomic uncertainty based on the economic agents opinions;
  •  Statistical evaluation of the relationship between aggregate results of business tendency monitoring and quantitative parameters of economic growth;
  •  Updating information bases of "soft" data in the format of a unified policy for the data dissemination both on national and international online platforms (OECD, European Commission, BRICS, EEA).


The methodology of the sectoral business tendency monitoring by CBTS is in line with international recommendations and adapted to specificities of the Russian economy. Updating its program and survey methods is based on the study of scientific and practical resources of world’s leading institutions in the field of organization and conducting business tendency monitoring: the National Bureau of Economic Analysis (NBER, USA), the Center for International Studies in Economic Trends (CIRET), the Ifo Institute for Economic Research (Germany), the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (Insee, France), the Swiss Economic Institute (KOF ETH), the Italian National Statistical Institute (Istat), the Brazilian Institute of Economics (IBRE), the Austrian Institute of Economic Research (WIFO), the joint OECD and European Commission projects.

As specific methods for analyzing the surveys’ results, the fundamentals of mathematical statistics for analysis of nonparametric information are applied:

  • Econometric methods to decompose the cyclic indicators dynamics;
  • Dynamic factor models to construct aggregate indicators;
  • Cluster analysis for the typology of entrepreneurial behavior;
  • Variance analysis to estimate economic uncertainty;
  • Regression approach to the quantify qualitative statistics;
  • Cross-correlation analysis to assess the relationship between qualitative and quantitative statistics;
  • VAR-models to determine the consistency and direction of the relationships.

Empirical base of research

The constantly updated empirical research base reflects the aggregate sentiments of Russian economic agents in the last two decades. It includes information obtained from regular business tendency surveys in the real sector (industry, construction, wholesale and retail trade), services, as well as surveys of investment activity of industrial organizations; the total stratified sample covers about 37,000 units in all regions of the country. In addition, the panel sample set of the pilot surveys includes more than 3.200 units of observation, of which 1085 industrial enterprises; 603 small business organizations; 959 investment-active large and medium-sized industrial enterprises, 623 IT-organizations.

Results of research

The results of regular business tendency monitoring in 2017 allowed us to analyze the degree of adaptation of the Russian economic agents to the impact of economic sanctions and price shock on oil markets; the efficiency of consolidation with regulators adopting anti-crisis solutions; the depth of the last economic recession relative to the previous ones, the levels of economic uncertainty and entrepreneurial confidence, the significant constraints and the clusters of sectoral growth.

The updated programs of pilot surveys on development of the small trade business, information technology, as well as large and medium-sized industrial business made it possible to assess the sectoral scale and intensity of import substitution, investment and innovation activity of enterprises, their competitive positions, employment policies, need and availability of long-term financial resources, resource-saving policies.

Empirical calculations based on the previously proposed method of joint decomposition of the economic sentiment indicator (HSE ESI) and GDP growth rates allowed us to update the turning points dating and continue the chronology of short-term economic cycles in the dynamics of both indicators; confirm their high compatibility and leading nature of HSE ESI, including during crises and subsequent recovery. Visualization of the study results using VAR-model and impulse response function provided assessing and graphically visualizing the strength, direction and duration of the shock in the HSE ESI dynamics on the dynamics of the macro aggregate (GDP).

The study examined the main approaches to measure uncertainty as the driving force of macroeconomic fluctuations, including those based on "soft" data of business tendency monitoring, with a view to develop the economic uncertainty indicator and include it in the composite indicator system. The international experience of so called nowcasting of low-frequency key economic variables using monthly and quarterly information, including surveys results, was also investigated.

Thus, the study made it possible to expand the opportunities of business tendency monitoring as an instrument to measure regularly and promptly the most significant sectoral development paths and short-term fluctuations when traditional statistics are still not sufficient, available with delay and subject to frequent revisions. The main advantages of the joint Rosstat and HSE surveys results are: accumulated database for almost two decades; timely, regular, unified and large-scale nature of the qualitative information collection and publication; the possibility of sectoral benchmark; availability of results; compliance with international standards and classifications; statistically significant compatibility with quantitative statistics. The indicators of early response based on surveys data are capable to lead the economic changes and correspond to cyclical phases in the short- and medium-term dynamics of the growth of key reference macro variables.

Outcomes of the implementation of the results

Information content, its user friendly visualization and results availability helps to attract new users from business and research communities, to form a block of regular media publications, to expand the competence of decision- and forecasts makers, and to increase the transparency of the national economy.

The research results, which characterize the specificities of modern economic development, were presented in the report “Recent crisis in Russia: entrepreneurial sentiment and economic growth” at the CIRET/KOF/WIFO joint workshop “Economic Trends and Financing Conditions” in October, 13-14, 2017 in Vienna (Austria).

The results of business tendency monitoring were discussed at the joint UNIDO/Rosstat/CISStat regional seminar “Industrial statistics for sustainable development of the countries of the region” in May 25-26, 2017 in Sochi, where the HSE experts presented the reports “Statistical data sources and methods of analysis of industrial performance”, “Use of statistical methods for policy relevant analysis of industrial production in CIS countries” and “Key findings of analysis of industrial performance of Russian Federation”.

The total output of information and analytical materials (including the results of regular business tendency monitoring) conducted within the research framework in 2017, amounted to more than 1000 pages. Reviews and reports based on the research results were regularly submitted to federal and regional executive authorities, published in the mass media and online, discussed on federal TV channels (more than 1500 references in 2017). The research results were published in the Russian academic and industry journals, as the working papers in the WP BRP series “Science, Technology and Innovation” and the UNIDO WP series “Inclusive and Sustainable Industrial Development". The article in the journal indexed in Scopus (Q2) and the monograph’s chapter (Springer publisher) are accepted for publication.

The main monitoring indicators transfer regularly to the OECD database “Business tendency and consumer opinion”. All analytical papers are available online.


Lola I. S. The Statistical Measurement of Business Conditions for Small Entrepreneurs / NRU Higher School of Economics. Series WP BRP "Science, Technology and Innovation". 2017. No. WP BRP 71/STI/2017 .
Kitrar Liudmila, Upadhyaya S., Ostapkovich Georgy. Industrial development in the CIS: re-industrualization trends and potential / United Nations Indusitrial Development Organization. Series WP6/2017 "Inclusive and Sustainable Industrial Development Working Paper Series". 2017.