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Can the Fed Predict the State of the Economy?

Author

Listed:
  • Tara M. Sinclair

    () (Department of Economics The George Washington University)

  • Fred Joutz

    () (Department of Economics The George Washington University)

  • Herman O. Stekler

    () (Department of Economics The George Washington University)

Abstract

Recent research has documented that the Federal Reserve produces systematic errors in forecasting inflation, real GDP growth, and the unemployment rate, even though these forecasts are unbiased. We show that these systematic errors reveal that the Fed is “surprised” by real and inflationary cycles. Using a modified Mincer-Zarnowitz regression, we show that the Fed knows the state of the economy for the current quarter, but cannot predict it one quarter ahead.

Suggested Citation

  • Tara M. Sinclair & Fred Joutz & Herman O. Stekler, 2009. "Can the Fed Predict the State of the Economy?," Working Papers 2009-001, The George Washington University, Department of Economics, Research Program on Forecasting, revised Mar 2010.
  • Handle: RePEc:gwc:wpaper:2009-001
    as

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    File URL: https://www2.gwu.edu/~forcpgm/2009-001.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Jacob A. Mincer & Victor Zarnowitz, 1969. "The Evaluation of Economic Forecasts," NBER Chapters,in: Economic Forecasts and Expectations: Analysis of Forecasting Behavior and Performance, pages 3-46 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Capistrán, Carlos, 2008. "Bias in Federal Reserve inflation forecasts: Is the Federal Reserve irrational or just cautious?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(8), pages 1415-1427, November.
    3. Karen E. Dynan & Douglas W. Elmendorf, 2001. "Do provisional estimates of output miss economic turning points?," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2001-52, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    4. Swanson, Norman R. & van Dijk, Dick, 2006. "Are Statistical Reporting Agencies Getting It Right? Data Rationality and Business Cycle Asymmetry," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 24, pages 24-42, January.
    5. Graham Elliott & Ivana Komunjer & Allan Timmermann, 2008. "Biases in Macroeconomic Forecasts: Irrationality or Asymmetric Loss?," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 6(1), pages 122-157, March.
    6. Holden, K & Peel, D A, 1990. "On Testing for Unbiasedness and Efficiency of Forecasts," The Manchester School of Economic & Social Studies, University of Manchester, vol. 58(2), pages 120-127, June.
    7. Joutz, Fred & Stekler, H. O., 2000. "An evaluation of the predictions of the Federal Reserve," International Journal of Forecasting, Elsevier, vol. 16(1), pages 17-38.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Henning Fischer & Marta García-Bárzana & Peter Tillmann & Peter Winker, 2014. "Evaluating FOMC forecast ranges: an interval data approach," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 47(1), pages 365-388, August.
    2. Tara M. Sinclair & H. O. Stekler & Warren Carnow, 2012. "A new approach for evaluating economic forecasts," Economics Bulletin, AccessEcon, vol. 32(3), pages 2332-2342.
    3. Sinclair, Tara M. & Stekler, H.O., 2013. "Examining the quality of early GDP component estimates," International Journal of Forecasting, Elsevier, vol. 29(4), pages 736-750.
    4. Loungani, Prakash & Stekler, Herman & Tamirisa, Natalia, 2013. "Information rigidity in growth forecasts: Some cross-country evidence," International Journal of Forecasting, Elsevier, vol. 29(4), pages 605-621.
    5. Fritsche, Ulrich & Pierdzioch, Christian & Rülke, Jan-Christoph & Stadtmann, Georg, 2015. "Forecasting the Brazilian real and the Mexican peso: Asymmetric loss, forecast rationality, and forecaster herding," International Journal of Forecasting, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 130-139.
    6. Pao-Lin Tien & Tara M. Sinclair & Edward N. Gamber, 2015. "Do Fed Forecast Errors Matter?," Wesleyan Economics Working Papers 2015-004, Wesleyan University, Department of Economics.
    7. Pierdzioch, Christian & Rülke, Jan-Christoph & Stadtmann, Georg, 2015. "Central banks’ inflation forecasts under asymmetric loss: Evidence from four Latin-American countries," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 129(C), pages 66-70.
    8. Tara M. Sinclair & H.O. Stekler, 2011. "Differences in Early GDP Component Estimates Between Recession and Expansion," Working Papers 2011-05, The George Washington University, Institute for International Economic Policy.
    9. Xie, Zixiong & Hsu, Shih-Hsun, 2016. "Time varying biases and the state of the economy," International Journal of Forecasting, Elsevier, vol. 32(3), pages 716-725.
    10. Baghestani, Hamid & AbuAl-Foul, Bassam M., 2017. "Comparing Federal Reserve, Blue Chip, and time series forecasts of US output growth," Journal of Economics and Business, Elsevier, vol. 89(C), pages 47-56.
    11. Sinclair, Tara M. & Stekler, H.O. & Carnow, Warren, 2015. "Evaluating a vector of the Fed’s forecasts," International Journal of Forecasting, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 157-164.
    12. Messina, Jeffrey D. & Sinclair, Tara M. & Stekler, Herman, 2015. "What can we learn from revisions to the Greenbook forecasts?," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 45(C), pages 54-62.
    13. Steven A. Sharpe & Nitish R. Sinha & Christopher A. Hollrah, 2017. "What's the Story? A New Perspective on the Value of Economic Forecasts," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2017-107, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    14. Ericsson, Neil R., 2017. "How biased are U.S. government forecasts of the federal debt?," International Journal of Forecasting, Elsevier, vol. 33(2), pages 543-559.
    15. Bürgi, Constantin, 2017. "Bias, rationality and asymmetric loss functions," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 154(C), pages 113-116.
    16. Fildes, Robert, 2015. "Forecasters and rationality—A comment on Fritsche et al., Forecasting the Brazilian Real and Mexican Peso: Asymmetric loss, forecast rationality and forecaster herding," International Journal of Forecasting, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 140-143.
    17. repec:mes:challe:v:57:y:2014:i:6:p:34-45 is not listed on IDEAS
    18. Ericsson, Neil R., 2016. "Eliciting GDP forecasts from the FOMC’s minutes around the financial crisis," International Journal of Forecasting, Elsevier, vol. 32(2), pages 571-583.
    19. Dovern, Jonas & Jannsen, Nils, 2017. "Systematic errors in growth expectations over the business cycle," International Journal of Forecasting, Elsevier, vol. 33(4), pages 760-769.
    20. Tara M. Sinclair, 2012. "Characteristics and Implications of Chinese Macroeconomic Data Revisions," Working Papers 2012-09, The George Washington University, Institute for International Economic Policy.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Forecast Evaluation; Federal Reserve; Systematic Errors; Recessions;

    JEL classification:

    • C53 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric Modeling - - - Forecasting and Prediction Models; Simulation Methods
    • 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
    • E58 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit - - - Central Banks and Their Policies

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