Research Computing >> Data >> DRI Basic Economics >> DRI Basic Economics tutorial


Before you begin: Webstract must be installed in your desktop. This tutorial is for Webstract with java. Print (you will need the supplied login IDs and passwords) and follow the instructions provided by Northwestern University Library:

Kellogg users: For additional information, refer to the DRI documentation page.


  1. After the installation of DRI's Webstract software, the application will bring up the following screen on your web browser:

  2. Click on "Start" to run Webstract. The first time it will prompt you for the login and password:
    After filling the three fields according to the Library's instructions, you may click on "Save as Default" to store the information in your desktop machine. If you do, in subsequent sessions, you will not need to provide this information again.

  3. After login, you will see the main Webstract screen:

  4. Click on "Basic Search", which will bring the Webstract application to the front:

  5. The first time you run this application, select "Internet Connection Options" from the "Options" menu. If you are accesing DRI from the Kellogg domain, select the second option, "I'm using a direct link from my system, or network". Click on "OK" to close this dialog window.

  6. In subsequent session, start Webstract by double-clicking on the icon placed on your desktop:

Selecting the data bank

  1. Webstract is the gateway to many of Standard & Poor's databases; Northwestern subscribes to "Basic Economics". In order to narrow your search to the Basic data banks only, after starting the application and clicking on "Basic Search", the first thing you must do is select one of the Basic data banks. To do so, click on the arrow next to "Database selections". "Basic Economics" is under "Macro Economic Data", but you can also click on "Complete list". If "View by Bank Description" is selected, you will get the following screen:

  2. You can only select one databank at a time. For the next example, click on "Basic Economics - Daily". The bank's name will turn blue, and its name (BASIC/D) will show up in a panel on the left side of the screen.

Searching a series by keyword

  1. Click on the "Search" button. The default search method in Webstract is by keyword. For this example, we are going to search for oil futures prices. Type "oil" in the "Keyword(s)" field and click on the "Go" button. After a few seconds, the list of series found in the Daily data bank that contain "oil" in their description will appear on the right panel.

  2. Click on a series (the series description will turn blue). At this point, the series is not selected for download yet, but Webstract will allow you to get a description (click on the arrow button by "Get a Description"). This short description is essentially the same as in the previous screen, but easier to read... If you are not interested in the series, click on its description again, The series description will turn black.

  3. If you were interested in the close price for crude oil, light sweet at the NYMEX for contracts expiring in 1 and 3 month, you would click on the series with name DFCPC1M and DFCPC3M, respectively.

  4. To download these data, click on the arrow button by "Add Selection(s) to Order". On the top portion of the screen, you will see a message: "2 item(s) selected", plus some additional information on the output retrieving the data would produce.

  5. If you did not select a data bank, you can still perform the search but will be able to retrieve only those series included in the data banks that Northwestern's subscription covers.

  6. Searching by keyword, while convenient has a distinct disadvantage: since the series' descriptions are shortened to one line and some words are abbreviated, you may not find anything about the keyword you type (even if you know the information is there). In addition, there are some spelling idiosyncracies. For example, the descriptions don't contain apostrophes. Thus "Moody's" is spelled as "Moody-s". See the final section of this tutorial for instructions to search the database by series name.

Choosing layout specifications: destination, interval, frequency and format

  1. Click on the "Layout" button. By default, it will show the items currently selected ("Data Request"). At this point, to clear the selection, you can select "Clear" from the "Edit" menu.

  2. To choose how to save the downloaded data, click on "Destination":

  3. Click on "Excel" and the click on the "Specify File Name" button.

  4. Webstract will prompt you to choose a file name and a directory (by default, it is the directory in which Webstract was installed). Navigate to an appropriate directory, type in a file name and choose "Comma separated values" among the file types offered. Click on OK.

  5. Next, click on "Interval & Freq." to specify the period and frequency:

  6. Click on "Format" to control how the series is going to be downloaded: the appearance of the associated dates and if the series are in rows or columns. This screen also allows you to select additional items to be downloaded: add, for example, the "series description" and "all documentation text"

  7. When done with your selection, you can click on the "Retrieve" button. Your data request will open in an Excel spreadsheet.

Searching a series by name

  1. The more efficient way of downloading data from DRI Basic Economics is to provide the series "name", which is a code that identifies the series within the DRI database. To find the series name, examine the documentation. There are separate documentation files for the Daily, Weekly and Foreign Exchange banks. The Economics bank documentation is split into several files, according to the original source of the data: Bureau of the Census, Bureau of Economic Analysis, etc. If you are not sure about which one of the banks has the information you are looking for, the table of contents lists the series by bank and topic.

  2. The documentation also provides the necessary 'meta-data': its source, the units in which the figures are stored, whether the series is seasonally adjusted or not, and the beginning date. To get to the documentation, using the corresponding login and password provided by the library, point your web browser to:

    DRI Basic Economics Client Access Documentation Area

    A copy of DRI's documentation is available online at Kellogg (requires Kellogg login).

  3. For example, if your were interested in Moody's public utility bond yields, you will find these series in the Daily, Weekly and Economics banks. If you are interested in weekly data, you would find that the Weekly bank has 11 series of Moody's bond yields, three of which are public utility bonds listed by rating: Aa, (series name FFUPAA), A (FFUPA), and Baa (FFUPB). Information for all of them starts on December 4, 1987.

  4. To carry out this search, return to Webstract. To clear the current selection, click on the "Layout" button, select "Data Request", and the choose "Clear" from the "Edit" menu.

  5. Click on the "Search" button and "Database selections" to choose the Basic Weekly data bank.

  6. Click on the "Search" button again to return to the Basic Search screen. Click on "Seriesname entry" to search the database by series name. Type "ffupa" and click on the "Go" button.

Searching for several series at once

  1. The Advanced search feature (see the screen shot in #9) allows the user to search for several series names at once by typing either the prefix or suffix. In the Basic Search screen, click on the arrow head next to "Advanced Search".

  2. If the Advanced Search is set to "Keyword Search", click on "Seriesname search" (bottom left in the screen):

  3. For example, to retrieve all the exchange rate series from the Federal Reserve in the Basic file, type "ex", click on "Enter" and then on the "Search" button.

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