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Gauging the uncertainty of the economic outlook from historical forecasting errors

  • David L. Reifschneider
  • Peter Tulip

Participants in meetings of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) regularly produce individual projections of real activity and inflation that are published in summary form. These summaries indicate participants' views about the most likely course for the macroeconomy but, by themselves, are not enough to gauge the full range of possible outcomes -- that is, the uncertainty surrounding the outlook. To this end, FOMC participants will now provide qualitative assessments of how they view the degree of current uncertainty relative to that which prevailed on average in the past. This paper discusses a method for gauging the average magnitude of historical uncertainty using information on the predictive accuracy of a number of private and government forecasters. The results suggest that, if past performance is a reasonable guide to the accuracy of future forecasts, considerable uncertainty surrounds all macroeconomic projections, including those of FOMC participants.

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Paper provided by Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.) in its series Finance and Economics Discussion Series with number 2007-60.

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Date of creation: 2007
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgfe:2007-60
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