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The Power of Narratives in Economic Forecasts

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Abstract

We apply textual analysis tools to the narratives that accompany Federal Reserve Board economic forecasts to measure the degree of optimism versus pessimism expressed in those narratives. Text sentiment is strongly correlated with the accompanying economic point forecasts, positively for GDP forecasts and negatively for unemployment and inflation forecasts. Moreover, our sentiment measure predicts errors in FRB and private forecasts for GDP growth and unemployment up to four quarters out. Furthermore, stronger sentiment predicts tighter than expected monetary policy and higher future stock returns. Quantile regressions indicate that most of sentiment’s forecasting power arises from signaling downside risks to the economy and stock prices.

Suggested Citation

  • Christopher A. Hollrah & Steven A. Sharpe & Nitish R. Sinha, 2020. "The Power of Narratives in Economic Forecasts," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2020-001, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgfe:2020-01
    DOI: 10.17016/FEDS.2020.001
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    File URL: https://www.federalreserve.gov/econres/feds/files/2020001pap.pdf
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    Keywords

    Text analysis; Economic forecasts; Monetary policy; Stock returns; Narratives;

    JEL classification:

    • C53 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric Modeling - - - Forecasting and Prediction Models; Simulation Methods
    • E17 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - General Aggregative Models - - - Forecasting and Simulation: Models and Applications
    • E27 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Forecasting and Simulation: Models and Applications
    • E37 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Forecasting and Simulation: Models and Applications
    • E52 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit - - - Monetary Policy
    • G14 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Information and Market Efficiency; Event Studies; Insider Trading

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