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Using forecasts to uncover the loss function of FOMC members

  • Christian Pierdzioch


    (University of Hamburg)

  • Jan-Christoph Rülke


    (University of Vallendar)

  • Peter Tillmann


    (University of Giessen)

We revisit the sources of the bias in Federal Reserve forecasts and assess whether a precautionary motive can explain the forecast bias. In contrast to the existing literature, we use forecasts submitted by individual FOMC members to uncover members' implicit loss function. Our key finding is that the loss function of FOMC members is asymmetric: FOMC members incur a higher loss when they underpredict (overpredict) inflation and unemployment (real GDP) as compared to an overprediction (underprediction) of similar size. Our findings add to the recent controversy on the relative quality of FOMC forecasts compared to staff forecasts. Together with Capistran's (2008) finding of similar asymmetries in Federal Reserve staff forecasts our results suggest that differences in predictive ability do not stem from differences in preferences. This is underlined by our second result: forecasts remain biased even after accepting an asymmetric loss function.

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Paper provided by Philipps-Universität Marburg, Faculty of Business Administration and Economics, Department of Economics (Volkswirtschaftliche Abteilung) in its series MAGKS Papers on Economics with number 201302.

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Length: 33 pages
Date of creation: 2013
Date of revision:
Publication status: Forthcoming in
Handle: RePEc:mar:magkse:201302
Contact details of provider: Postal: Universitätsstraße 25, 35037 Marburg
Phone: 06421/28-1722
Fax: 06421/28-4858
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  1. Timothy Besley & Neil Meads & Paolo Surico, 2008. "Insiders versus Outsiders in Monetary Policymaking," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(2), pages 218-23, May.
  2. Pierdzioch, Christian & Rülke, Jan-Christoph & Stadtmann, Georg, 2012. "On the loss function of the Bank of Canada: A note," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 115(2), pages 155-159.
  3. Jan-Christoph Rülke & Peter Tillmann, 2010. "Do FOMC Members Herd?," MAGKS Papers on Economics 201032, Philipps-Universität Marburg, Faculty of Business Administration and Economics, Department of Economics (Volkswirtschaftliche Abteilung).
  4. Francisco J. Ruge-Murcia, 2001. "Inflation Targeting Under Asymmetric Preferences," Banco de Espa�a Working Papers 0106, Banco de Espa�a.
  5. Lutz Kilian & Simone Manganelli, 2008. "The Central Banker as a Risk Manager: Estimating the Federal Reserve's Preferences under Greenspan," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 40(6), pages 1103-1129, 09.
  6. William T. Gavin, 2003. "FOMC forecasts: is all the information in the central tendency?," Working Papers 2003-002, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
  7. Wieland, Volker & Wolters, Maik, 2013. "Forecasting and Policy Making," Handbook of Economic Forecasting, Elsevier.
  8. Petra Gerlach-Kristen, 2009. "Outsiders at the Bank of England's MPC," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 41(6), pages 1099-1115, 09.
  9. Ellen E. Meade & Daniel L. Thornton, 2010. "The Phillips Curve and US Monetary Policy: What the FOMC Transcripts Tell Us," Working Papers 2010-18, American University, Department of Economics.
  10. David H. Romer, 2009. "A New Data Set on Monetary Policy: The Economic Forecasts of Individual Members of the FOMC," NBER Working Papers 15208, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. A. Robert Nobay & David A. Peel, 2003. "Optimal Discretionary Monetary Policy in a Model of Asymmetric Central Bank Preferences," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 113(489), pages 657-665, 07.
  12. Riboni, Alessandro & Ruge-Murcia, Francesco, 2008. "Preference Heterogeneity in Monetary Policy Committees," Economics Papers from University Paris Dauphine 123456789/7717, Paris Dauphine University.
  13. David Laster & Paul Bennett & In Sun Geoum, 1999. "Rational Bias in Macroeconomic Forecasts," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(1), pages 293-318.
  14. Gavin, William T. & Mandal, Rachel J., 2003. "Evaluating FOMC forecasts," International Journal of Forecasting, Elsevier, vol. 19(4), pages 655-667.
  15. Peter Tillmann, 2010. "Strategic Forecasting on the FOMC," MAGKS Papers on Economics 201017, Philipps-Universität Marburg, Faculty of Business Administration and Economics, Department of Economics (Volkswirtschaftliche Abteilung).
  16. Alan S. Blinder, 2009. "Making Monetary Policy by Committee," International Finance, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 12(2), pages 171-194, 08.
  17. Martin Ellison & Thomas J. Sargent, 2009. "A defence of the FOMC," Economics Series Working Papers 457, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    • Martin Ellison & Thomas J. Sargent, 2012. "A Defense Of The Fomc," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 53(4), pages 1047-1065, November.
  18. Sushil Bikhchandani & David Hirshleifer & Ivo Welch, 2010. "A theory of Fads, Fashion, Custom and cultural change as informational Cascades," Levine's Working Paper Archive 1193, David K. Levine.
  19. Tillmann, Peter, 2010. "The Fed's perceived Phillips curve: Evidence from individual FOMC forecasts," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 32(4), pages 1008-1013, December.
  20. Belden, Susan, 1989. "Policy Preferences of FOMC Members as Revealed by Dissenting Votes," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 21(4), pages 432-41, November.
  21. Carmona, Carlos Capistran, 2005. "Bias in Federal Reserve Inflation Forecasts: Is the Federal Reserve Irrational or Just Cautious?," University of California at San Diego, Economics Working Paper Series qt6v28v0b6, Department of Economics, UC San Diego.
  22. Petra Gerlach-Kristen, 2008. "The Role of the Chairman in Setting Monetary Policy: Individualistic vs. Autocratically Collegial MPCs," International Journal of Central Banking, International Journal of Central Banking, vol. 4(3), pages 119-143, September.
  23. Surico, Paolo, 2007. "The Fed's monetary policy rule and U.S. inflation: The case of asymmetric preferences," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 305-324, January.
  24. Henry W. Chappell, Jr. & Rob Roy McGregor & Todd A. Vermilyea, 2005. "Committee Decisions on Monetary Policy: Evidence from Historical Records of the Federal Open Market Committee," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262033305, June.
  25. Allan Timmermann & Andrew Patton, 2004. "Properties of Optimal Forecasts under Asymmetric Loss and Nonlinearity," Working Papers wp04-05, Warwick Business School, Finance Group.
  26. Patton, Andrew J. & Timmermann, Allan, 2007. "Testing Forecast Optimality Under Unknown Loss," Journal of the American Statistical Association, American Statistical Association, vol. 102, pages 1172-1184, December.
  27. William T. Gavin & Geetanjali Pande, 2008. "FOMC consensus forecasts," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue May, pages 149-164.
  28. Michael T. Kiley, 2003. "Why Is Inflation Low When Productivity Growth Is High?," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 41(3), pages 392-406, July.
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