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Are the Fed’s Inflation Forecasts Still Superior to the Private Sector’s?

  • Edward N. Gamber

    ()

    (Department of Economics and Business, Lafayette College)

  • Julie K. Smith

    ()

    (Department of Economics and Business,Lafayette College)

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 (2000), and Sims (2002) shows that the Fed is more accurate than the private sector at forecasting inflation. In a separate line of research, Atkeson and Ohanian (2001) and Stock and Watson (2007) document changes in the forecastability of inflation since the Great Moderation. These works suggest that the reduced inflation variability associated with 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 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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File URL: http://www.gwu.edu/~forcpgm/2007-002.pdf
File Function: First version, 2007
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File URL: http://www.gwu.edu/~forcpgm/2007-002.pdf
File Function: Revised version, 2008
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Paper provided by The George Washington University, Department of Economics, Research Program on Forecasting in its series Working Papers with number 2007-002.

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Length: 29 pages
Date of creation: Nov 2007
Date of revision: Jul 2008
Publication status: Forthcoming in the Journal of Macroeconomics
Handle: RePEc:gwc:wpaper:2007-002
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  1. Chang-Jin Kim & Charles Nelson & Jeremy Piger, 2001. "The less volatile U.S. economy: a Bayesian investigation of timing, breadth, and potential explanations," International Finance Discussion Papers 707, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  2. 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.
  3. James H. Stock & Mark W. Watson, 2007. "Why Has U.S. Inflation Become Harder to Forecast?," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 39(s1), pages 3-33, 02.
  4. 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.
  5. William T. Gavin & Rachel J. Mandal, 2000. "Forecasting inflation and growth: do private forecasts match those of policymakers?," Working Papers 2000-026, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
  6. 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.
  7. Hans Gersbach, 2003. "On the negative social value of central banks' knowledge transparency," Economics of Governance, Springer, vol. 4(2), pages 91-102, 08.
  8. D'Agostino, Antonello & Domenico, Giannone & Surico, Paolo, 2006. "(Un)Predictability and Macroeconomic Stability," Research Technical Papers 5/RT/06, Central Bank of Ireland.
  9. Alex Cukierman, 2007. "The limits of transparency," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. Margaret M. McConnell & Gabriel Perez Quiros, 1997. "Output fluctuations in the United States: what has changed since the early 1980s?," Research Paper 9735, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
  19. David 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.).
  20. 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.
  21. James H. Stock & Mark W. Watson, 2002. "Has the Business Cycle Changed and Why?," NBER Working Papers 9127, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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