Many forecasters feel it is hard to get an accurate picture of the Hong Kong economy. They say too little data is provided too infrequently. That was why so many economists were wrong-footed when Hong Kong was revealed to have avoided recession with a quarter-on-quarter 0.4 per cent gross domestic production growth in the third quarter. 'In fact, Hong Kong and Singapore, the region's most developed economies, have the least comprehensive figures so it makes it very difficult,' Commercial Economics Asia chief executive Enzio von Pfeil said. 'Hong Kong is among Asia's worst, the figures are annoying and out of date. It's sad to see many gifted statisticians not being able to get their teeth in.' Analysts say there is good data for retail sales, foreign trade, unemployment and property sales. However, the release of quarterly instead of monthly data - or in some cases many months after the quarter - deprives them of reliable leading indicators in other areas. 'There is very little information on investment figures, there is little on consumer confidence, there is very little on the monetary-base side and nothing, but nothing, on cross-border trade with Guangdong,' Mr Von Pfeil said. 'I suspect the statistics are very good, I think it's an executive decision at the top - and this was a pre-handover thing - not to reveal the numbers. It means Hong Kong is really losing its edge in economic reporting.' Economists said official data did not warn them of the 20 per cent drop in private investment that threw out many forecasters' second-quarter GDP prediction. 'We know about consumption figures and trade figures - everything else is a wild guess,' National Australia Bank economist Kevin Lai said. Neither were there any monthly leading indicators of what inventory levels would be and the actual survey of businesses which lay behind the official figure was never released. In the United States, the leading indicator for inventory is a survey of national purchasing managers. Hong Kong Government information released on Friday revealed only a 'modest depletion in inventories in the third quarter of 2001'. And Hong Kong did not reveal a leading indicator for industrial production - which made up 11 per cent of GDP, Mr Lai said. Manufacturing, mining and quarrying and construction were big employers, yet the employment breakdown in each sector was released some months after the quarterly figures, Mr Lai said. And, while most governments had already reported third-quarter figures - even the Philippines reported its third quarter GDP a day before Hong Kong - the Hong Kong Government still called its figures 'preliminary'. 'It can't be too preliminary when it has taken two months after the end of the quarter to compile the data. It's quite funny really,' Mr Lai said. Even though services comprise almost 90 per cent of Hong Kong's GDP there were no official monthly figures to help business keep tabs on service industries as diverse as import and export, transport, hotels and finance. 'We are a service economy, so why don't they put together a services output indicator, instead of making us all scurry around to piece the services picture together from many sources,' Mr von Pfeil said. Citibank senior economist Joe Lo defended the timing of the release of third-quarter GDP figures. 'It's only a little bit later than other economies in the region, it's not too late,' he said, yet complained the release of detailed statistics came too late. 'For instance, for the construction industry, cement production for the quarter is only available a few months after the quarter,' he said. City University economics and finance associate professor Charles Li Kui-wai questioned the need for so many monthly statistics, saying they could be obtained from industry bodies and unions if needed.