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Survey-based nowcasting of US growth: a real-time forecast comparison over more than 40 years


  • Schnatz, Bernd
  • D'Agostino, Antonello


Reliable and timely information about current economic conditions is crucial for policy makers and expectations formation. This paper demonstrates the efficacy of the Survey of Professional Forecasters (SPF) and the Purchasing Manager Indices (PMI) in anticipating US real economic activity. We conduct a fully-fledged real-time out-ofsample forecasting exercise linking these surveys to US GDP and industrial production growth over a long sample period. We find that both indicators convey valuable information for assessing current economic conditions. The SPF clearly outperforms the PMI in forecasting GDP growth, while it performs quite poorly in anticipating industrial production growth. Combining the information included in both surveys further improves the accuracy of both, the PMI and the SPF-based forecast. JEL Classification: E37, E47, C22, C53

Suggested Citation

  • Schnatz, Bernd & D'Agostino, Antonello, 2012. "Survey-based nowcasting of US growth: a real-time forecast comparison over more than 40 years," Working Paper Series 1455, European Central Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecb:ecbwps:20121455

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Audrone Jakaitiene & Stephane Dees, 2012. "Forecasting the World Economy in the Short Term," The World Economy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 35(3), pages 331-350, March.
    2. Giannone, Domenico & Reichlin, Lucrezia & Small, David, 2008. "Nowcasting: The real-time informational content of macroeconomic data," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(4), pages 665-676, May.
    3. Antonello D’Agostino & Kieran Mcquinn & Karl Whelan, 2012. "Are Some Forecasters Really Better Than Others?," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 44(4), pages 715-732, June.
    4. Lahiri, Kajal & Monokroussos, George, 2013. "Nowcasting US GDP: The role of ISM business surveys," International Journal of Forecasting, Elsevier, vol. 29(4), pages 644-658.
    5. Genre, Véronique & Kenny, Geoff & Meyler, Aidan & Timmermann, Allan, 2010. "Combining the forecasts in the ECB survey of professional forecasters: can anything beat the simple average?," Working Paper Series 1277, European Central Bank.
    6. Aruoba, S. BoraÄŸan & Diebold, Francis X. & Scotti, Chiara, 2009. "Real-Time Measurement of Business Conditions," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 27(4), pages 417-427.
    7. Clark, Todd E. & West, Kenneth D., 2007. "Approximately normal tests for equal predictive accuracy in nested models," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 138(1), pages 291-311, May.
    8. Evan F. Koenig, 2002. "Using the Purchasing Managers' Index to assess the economy's strength and the likely direction of monetary policy," Economic and Financial Policy Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
    9. Liebermann, Joelle, 2010. "Real-time nowcasting of GDP: Factor model versus professional forecasters," MPRA Paper 28819, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    10. Giannone, Domenico & Reichlin, Lucrezia & Small, David, 2005. "Nowcasting GDP and Inflation: The Real Time Informational Content of Macroeconomic Data Releases," CEPR Discussion Papers 5178, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    11. Carriero, Andrea & Marcellino, Massimiliano, 2007. "A comparison of methods for the construction of composite coincident and leading indexes for the UK," International Journal of Forecasting, Elsevier, vol. 23(2), pages 219-236.
    12. Vermeulen, Philip, 2012. "Quantifying the qualitative responses of the output purchasing managers index in the US and the Euro area," Working Paper Series 1417, European Central Bank.
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    Cited by:

    1. Giacomini, Raffaella, 2014. "Economic theory and forecasting: lessons from the literature," CEPR Discussion Papers 10201, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    2. Raffaella Giacomini, 2014. "Economic theory and forecasting: lessons from the literature," CeMMAP working papers CWP41/14, Centre for Microdata Methods and Practice, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
    3. Kilinc, Zubeyir & Yucel, Eray, 2016. "PMI Thresholds for GDP Growth," MPRA Paper 70929, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item


    business cycle; forecasting; PMI; Real Time Data; US;

    JEL classification:

    • E37 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Forecasting and Simulation: Models and Applications
    • E47 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates - - - Forecasting and Simulation: Models and Applications
    • C22 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Single Equation Models; Single Variables - - - Time-Series Models; Dynamic Quantile Regressions; Dynamic Treatment Effect Models; Diffusion Processes
    • C53 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric Modeling - - - Forecasting and Prediction Models; Simulation Methods

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