What makes statistics reliable

Why are statistics important?

October 19, 2016 (updated January 9, 2018)

Statistics - facts or sets of data generated from numerical data - are of great importance to the ECB and central banks in general. Whether in connection with its core task, monetary policy, in the area of ​​financial stability or banking supervision, the ECB depends on high-quality statistics. They are a prerequisite for making informed decisions.

The analysis of economic, monetary and financial developments in the run-up to the monetary policy meetings shows how important statistics are for the ECB and also for the citizens of the euro area countries. These statistics form an essential basis for the monetary policy decisions of the Governing Council, which in turn influence the interest rates that individuals and companies pay. That said, statistics can have an indirect impact on the lives of many people.

Why are high quality statistics so important?

Well-founded decisions are only possible on the basis of high-quality statistics. We therefore apply strict standards. This is to ensure that the ECB's statistics are accurate, consistent and up-to-date and that they are compiled in accordance with international standards and without the influence of third parties. The latter in particular, i.e. independence, ensures reliable statistics, underpins the credibility of our monetary policy decisions and strengthens confidence in the ECB.

Why do we also need relevant data?

The recent financial crisis shows the importance of collecting relevant and more granular data. Central bank statistics therefore go beyond aggregates, which are always mean values, and also take into account (more detailed) micro-data, for example at the level of individual loans, transactions and banks.

With the help of granular data, it is easier to understand how monetary policy is carried over to different areas of the economy. They can lead to a better design of future monetary policy measures and enable a quicker monetary policy reaction in the event of outliers (data discrepancies) or tail risks (events or results that are unlikely to occur but have a considerable impact). The ECB's AnaCredit project, which involves a new data set with detailed information on individual bank loans in the euro area, is a good example of granular data.

Challenges in collecting detailed data

Collecting detailed statistical data can be a major challenge, especially when choosing methodology and calculation methods to ensure cross-border comparability.

Obtaining information from actors who are not part of the banking system, but who can nevertheless influence the financial system and consequently also monetary policy, is a challenge. Examples of such actors are hedge funds - that is, capital investment companies that provide the liquid assets of a limited number of individuals / institutional investors - and shadow banks - i.e. companies that offer bank-like services without direct access to central bank liquidity.

In addition, the reporting load for the banks should not be too high, since sufficient time, means and other resources are required to collect and report the data.

In addition, the confidentiality of the individual data must always be ensured, which applies in particular to supervisory data in connection with activities that are carried out together with third parties.

Harmonization of the data is of central importance

The harmonization of the data is also of central importance as it enables meaningful results and reliable comparisons. In this way, we can be sure of the accuracy of the inflation data, as they are generated on the basis of national data based on uniform definitions and classifications or, in other words, a comparable shopping basket of goods and services.

Where can I find ECB statistics?

Understandably, the focus of the statistics collected, developed and compiled by the ECB is on the euro area. Important data are freely accessible.

A wide range of statistics is available on the Euro Area Statistics website - where statistics are presented in graphics and in formats that can be easily integrated into digital media - or in our extensive Statstical Data Warehouse.

The statistical data warehouse includes:

  • ECB / Eurosystem monetary policy and exchange rate data
  • Money, credit, banking and financial market statistics
  • Balance of payments statistics and other external statistics
  • macroeconomic and sectoral statistics
  • Payment statistics
  • Banking supervision statistics
  • Data on inflation, other prices, costs, production and labor markets

The European System of Central Banks is proud to be one of the two European sources that provide high quality statistics on Europe. This is possible thanks to the close cooperation between the ECB and the national central banks and other EU institutions as well as national and international statistical offices, including the EU statistical office, Eurostat.

This page was updated on January 9, 2018 and further information was added.