The Bank of England's chief economist has urged bankers to look at the musical mood of the nation when gauging how an interest rate rise could impact on the economy.

Andy Haldane cited a recent study by Claremont University tracking popular music against the sentiment of the markets, saying it was just as good as a noted traditional study of consumer confidence.

In a speech on Big Data, Mr Haldane said it was "devilishly difficult" to work out the mood of consumers through traditional means.

"These realities may call for exploring non-traditional means of revealing people's preferences and
sentiments," he said.

"To give one recent example, data on music downloads from Spotify has been used, in tandem with semantic search techniques applied to the words of songs, to provide an indicator of people's sentiment.

Image:Andy Haldane cited the study during a speech on Big Data

"Intriguingly, the resulting index of sentiment does at least as well in tracking consumer spending as the Michigan survey of consumer confidence."

The study, called The Rhythm of the Markets, interpreted key themes from the language of songs in the Billboard Top 100 in the US, and looked at how their popularity corresponded to the rise or fall of the Nasdaq, the Dow Jones and the S&P 500.

The study's authors claimed it means "we are able to create trading strategies with our music sentiment indices that out-perform traditional buy-and-hold strategies in terms of reward and risk".

Emotions the researchers looked at included joy, anger, sadness and anticipation.

An increase in songs around the themes of sadness forecast a rise, but surprise forecast a fall.

World of Warcraft could be a test bed for new monetary policy
Image:World of Warcraft could be a test bed for new monetary policy

Mr Haldane also plans to use virtual worlds, like World of Warcraft, to test reactions to economic changes.

Bankers are to monitor how players in the "primitive economies" react to sudden policy changes or tighter regulations.

Mr Haldane said it was a "test bed for policy action – a large-scale dynamic, digital focus group".

In his speech, he added: "And why stop at music? People's tastes in books, TV and radio may also offer a window on their soul.

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"So too might their taste in games. Indeed, I am interested in the potential for using gaming techniques, not just to extract data on people's preferences, but as a means of generating data on preferences and actions."

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