Sentiment, the Economy and the Market


This morning, Dow Jones will release the first instance of its new Economic Sentiment Indicator (ESI), an economic indicator based on language patterns in news media. I've heard of several strategies for finding investment intelligence in media content, but this is the first I can recall that aims to predict the performance of the overall economy. Naturally, it reminded me of earlier discussions of which media metrics might be useful as economic tea leaves.

The math behind DJ's ESI is astoundingly simple—"a ratio between the number of appearances of the word recession (and some synonyms) and the number of appearances of the word recovery (and some synonyms)"—yet the company says it is a reliable, leading indicator of economic performance.

Predicting market moves
If a simple sentiment test based on a few numbers can predict the economy, what does it take to predict the performance of specific investments? I've heard of a few approaches at real companies. Naurally, what works and what doesn't work is somebody's trade secret, but here are some things they're trying:

  • Volume of discussion
    More talk means something. I've heard of hedge-fund experiments with this simple indicator.

  • Sentiment analysis of discussion
    Take the PR-research metrics and look for correlations with stock prices. Think about mining targeted communities versus the entire social media world.

  • Sentiment analysis of influencers
    Ignore the crowd and focus on quotes and public statements of executives, analysts, and others with specialized knowledge of the company.

  • Discovery of little-known facts
    Apply technology to read the impossible volume of daily information that may reveal—or hint at—a valuable fact. Keep your text analytics busy with securities filings, patent filings, court records and anything else that might hold material information. It's amazing how much is online now.
The reputation measurement folks talk about the impact of corporate reputation on stock price, but I haven't heard of investors using reputation metrics (yet). I would think someone would try that.

What else can it do?
If you think about the information generated by most social media analysis companies, it's not hard to imagine looking at the dashboards or reports with an investor's eye. Both quantitative and qualitative views can tell useful stories. If you're the communications person, you might try comparing your media metrics with your company's stock price, in addition to financial metrics. Wouldn't that be an interesting chart to have in your back pocket?

You might try thinking of how SMA might benefit other functional areas, too. Certainly, vendors I'm hearing from are applying similar techniques outside of marketing and communications. Apply a little rocket science and consider that the value of this information might show up somewhere other than where everyone is looking. It's way too interesting to stay in a sandbox for long.


Hi Nathan:

Shades of Monitor 110 here . . .

Regarding your last sentence - SMA is really using linguistic analysis techniques that are already being applied in other fields - legal discovery, predictive warranty repair, legal compliance, etc.

It is all just pattern recognition at the bottom.


Yep, it doesn't always lead to a successful business.

This is what happens when you look at the edges of a market. Interesting things show up on the other side of the fence, and sometimes there's no fence at all. I don't see much in the way of barriers to entry for entrants from adjacent spaces. I have a couple of draft posts that may turn into more coherent comments on that topic.

Hi Nathan,

You are right on target with this - and the DJ product is interesting. In fact, on the financial side, we do have several customers using reputation metrics (sentiment based) in trading or providing stock trade information. Of course, some won't let us disclose their names, but our largest client ThomsonReuters includes sentiment in their automated trading system. There is very cool stuff happening in the financial world these days with sentiment analysis.


This is a really interesting post. My company specializes in content analysis and there really are so many applications. It will be fascinating to see where the field goes.


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About Nathan Gilliatt

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  • Voracious learner and explorer. Analyst tracking technologies and markets in intelligence, analytics and social media. Advisor to buyers, sellers and investors. Writing my next book.
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