Data is useful for a many reasons (too many for me to find and list them). It can also be quite misleading if not used very carefully. To show this I will use Bangladesh export figures for February 2014 (all in USD mn). See how the tone of the title changes dramatically depending on how we look at the data.
8 month export surges up by 14%
When we compare the cumulative 8 months total exports over the corresponding period last year we get a very rosy picture for exports.The economy looks to be roaring despite the unrest we faced towards the end of the year in 2013 and the global issues.
February 2014 exports up by around 6% compared to February 2013
February 2014 numbers compared to February 2013 numbers show that growth has slowed down a bit. Our tone thus becomes slightly less optimistic.
February 2014 exports drops dramatically month over month
The MoM figures look quite scary. A 13% drop in MoM figures!!! Must be the effect of the political turmoil and the skepticism of global buyers in RMG after the accidents last year.
Well, the story is not over yet until we see the next segment.
No surprises in exports figures
When we look at the MoM exports in the last two years it is quite clear that there is seasonality and February is always a weak month. So, there is clearly nothing out of the ordinary.
An analyst actually has to look at the data in all four methods shown above to come to a conclusion. In this case, we see that exports have been reasonably strong but the growth is coming down as seen by the 2nd chart.