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Are the Fed's inflation forecasts still superior to the private sector's?

  • Gamber, Edward N.
  • Smith, Julie K.

We examine the relative improvement in forecasting accuracy of the Federal Reserve (Greenbook forecasts) and private-sector forecasts (the Survey of Professional Forecasters and Blue Chip Economic Indicators)for inflation. Previous research by Romer and Romer [Romer, Christina, David, Romer, 2000. Federal reserve information and the behavior of interest rates. American Economic Review 90, 429-457], and Sims [Sims, Christopher, 2002. The role of models and probabilities in the monetary policy process. Brookings Papers on Economic Activity 2, 1-62] shows that the Fed is more accurate than the private sector at forecasting inflation. In a separate line of research, Atkeson and Ohanian [Andrew, Atkeson, Ohanian, Lee E., 2001. Are Phillips curves useful for forecasting inflation? Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis Quarterly Review 25, 2-11] and Stock and Watson [Stock, James, Watson, Mark, 2007. Why has U.S. inflation become harder to forecast? Journal of Money, Credit and Banking 39] document changes in the forecastability of inflation since the Great Moderation. These works suggest that the reduced inflation variability associated with the Great Moderation was mostly due to a decline in the variability of the predictable component inflation. We hypothesize that the decline in the variability of the predictable component of inflation has evened the playing field between the Fed and the private sector and therefore led to a narrowing, if not disappearance, of the Fed's relative forecasting advantage. We find that the Fed's forecast errors remain significantly smaller than the private sector's but the gap has narrowed considerable since the mid-1980s, especially after 1994.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Macroeconomics.

Volume (Year): 31 (2009)
Issue (Month): 2 (June)
Pages: 240-251

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Handle: RePEc:eee:jmacro:v:31:y:2009:i:2:p:240-251
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  1. David H. Romer & Christina D. Romer, 2000. "Federal Reserve Information and the Behavior of Interest Rates," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(3), pages 429-457, June.
  2. Ray C. Fair & Robert J. Shiller, 1988. "The Informational Content of Ex Ante Forecasts," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 857, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  3. Alex Cukierman, 2007. "The limits of transparency," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  4. James H. Stock & Mark W. Watson, 2006. "Why Has U.S. Inflation Become Harder to Forecast?," NBER Working Papers 12324, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. William T. Gavin & Rachel J. Mandal, 2001. "Forecasting inflation and growth: do private forecasts match those of policymakers?," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue May, pages 11-20.
  6. Andrew Atkeson & Lee E. Ohanian, 2001. "Are Phillips curves useful for forecasting inflation?," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Win, pages 2-11.
  7. James H. Stock & Mark W. Watson, 2007. "Erratum to "Why Has U.S. Inflation Become Harder to Forecast?"," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 39(7), pages 1849-1849, October.
  8. Christina D. Romer & David H. Romer, 2008. "The FOMC versus the Staff: Where Can Monetary Policymakers Add Value?," NBER Working Papers 13751, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. D'Agostino, Antonello & Domenico, Giannone & Surico, Paolo, 2006. "(Un)Predictability and Macroeconomic Stability," Research Technical Papers 5/RT/06, Central Bank of Ireland.
  10. Chang-Jin Kim & Charles R. Nelson & Jeremy M. Piger, 2003. "The less volatile U.S. economy: a Bayesian investigation of timing, breadth, and potential explanations," Working Papers 2001-016, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
  11. Tara Sinclair & H. O. Stekler & L. Kitzinger, 2010. "Directional forecasts of GDP and inflation: a joint evaluation with an application to Federal Reserve predictions," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 42(18), pages 2289-2297.
  12. Margaret M. McConnell & Gabriel Perez Quiros, 1998. "Output fluctuations in the United States: what has changed since the early 1980s?," Staff Reports 41, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  13. James H. Stock & Mark W. Watson, 2002. "Has the Business Cycle Changed and Why?," NBER Working Papers 9127, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. James A. Kahn & Margaret M. McConnell & Gabriel Perez-Quiros, 2002. "On the causes of the increased stability of the U.S. economy," Economic Policy Review, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, issue May, pages 183-202.
  15. Hans Gersbach, 2003. "On the negative social value of central banks' knowledge transparency," Economics of Governance, Springer, vol. 4(2), pages 91-102, 08.
  16. James H. Stock & Mark W. Watson, 2003. "Has the business cycle changed?," Proceedings - Economic Policy Symposium - Jackson Hole, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, pages 9-56.
  17. Harvey, David & Leybourne, Stephen & Newbold, Paul, 1997. "Testing the equality of prediction mean squared errors," International Journal of Forecasting, Elsevier, vol. 13(2), pages 281-291, June.
  18. David L. Reifschneider & Peter Tulip, 2007. "Gauging the uncertainty of the economic outlook from historical forecasting errors," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2007-60, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  19. Jon Faust & Jonathan H. Wright, 2007. "Comparing Greenbook and Reduced Form Forecasts using a Large Realtime Dataset," NBER Working Papers 13397, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  20. Olivier Blanchard & John Simon, 2001. "The Long and Large Decline in U.S. Output Volatility," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 32(1), pages 135-174.
  21. Christopher A. Sims, 2002. "The Role of Models and Probabilities in the Monetary Policy Process," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 33(2), pages 1-62.
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