Big Macs, miniskirts, magazines and money(REUTERS - Albert Gea)

Almost every day, business headlines provide a slew of economic indicators that can move markets or, supposedly, help us make investment decisions. But each measurement -- from housing starts to unemployment -- has its detractors: analysts and experts who argue that the data is faulty, the methodology dubious, and the final figures practically worthless. For example, one asks: How can the government possibly keep track of every Starbucks barista or Wal-Mart clerk fired or hired and give us a true picture of unemployment? Or what good is the housing starts figure if supply is always ahead of demand?
Maybe, just maybe, we'd be better off paying attention to the less scientific formulas, like the Magazine Cover Index or the so-called "Hot Waitress" Index. No less authority than Alan Greenspan has noticed that the sales of men's underwear can signal a change in economic activity, so why aren't we all tuned into revenue figures for tighty whities?
Minyanville took a look at a range of indicators both formal and fanciful and asked, do they work? Click through to see what we've found.