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What do Sentiment Surveys Measure?

Author

Listed:
  • Ivan Roberts

    (Reserve Bank of Australia)

  • John Simon

    (Reserve Bank of Australia)

Abstract

Indices of business and consumer sentiment receive widespread media coverage and are closely watched by market economists despite their limited success as leading indicators. In this paper we ask what explains ‘sentiment’ and find that lagged economic indicators (such as changes in GDP, job vacancies and the cash rate) can explain a substantial proportion of the variation in a number of backward and forward-looking sentiment indices. This does not rule out the possibility that they may be useful for forecasting. We find, however, that when currently available economic information is appropriately ‘filtered’ from the sentiment indices, in most cases they fail even rudimentary Granger-causality tests of predictive ability. On a more positive note, we find that the Roy Morgan consumer confidence rating, NAB actual business conditions, NAB expected employment outlook over the next three months and the second question in the Roy Morgan and Westpac/MI consumer surveys all provide some, albeit small, contribution to forecasting employment growth. The second question of both consumer confidence surveys (which asks about anticipated personal financial conditions over the coming year) also appears to have some ability to predict recessions. Outside of these results there is little evidence that the surveys tell us anything we didn’t already know. Thus, there is reason to suspect that surveyed respondents’ forecasts offer little more information about the future path of the economy than a weighted average of lagged economic variables.

Suggested Citation

  • Ivan Roberts & John Simon, 2001. "What do Sentiment Surveys Measure?," RBA Research Discussion Papers rdp2001-09, Reserve Bank of Australia.
  • Handle: RePEc:rba:rbardp:rdp2001-09
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    File URL: http://www.rba.gov.au/publications/rdp/2001/pdf/rdp2001-09.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    4. Jason Bram & Sydney Ludvigson, 1998. "Does consumer confidence forecast household expenditure? a sentiment index horse race," Economic Policy Review, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, issue Jun, pages 59-78.
    5. Saul H. Hymans, 1970. "Consumer Durable Spending: Explanation and Prediction," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 1(2), pages 173-206.
    6. Estrella, Arturo, 1998. "A New Measure of Fit for Equations with Dichotomous Dependent Variables," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 16(2), pages 198-205, April.
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    8. Joanne Loundes & Rosanna Scutella, 2000. "Consumer Sentiment and Australian Consumer Spending," Melbourne Institute Working Paper Series wp2000n21, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, The University of Melbourne.
    9. Michael C. & Pao-Lin Tien, 2000. "Economic Discomfort and Consumer Sentiment," Eastern Economic Journal, Eastern Economic Association, vol. 26(1), pages 1-8, Winter.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Aleksejs Melihovs & Svetlana Rusakova, 2005. "Short-Term Forecasting of Economic Development in Latvia Using Business and Consumer Survey Data," Working Papers 2005/04, Latvijas Banka.
    2. Lemmens, A. & Croux, C. & Dekimpe, M.G., 2007. "Consumer confidence in Europe : United in diversity," Other publications TiSEM ea8c3268-2c0b-4fcc-9d4a-6, Tilburg University, School of Economics and Management.
    3. Dudek, Sławomir, 2008. "Consumer Survey Data and short-term forecasting of households consumption expenditures in Poland," MPRA Paper 19818, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Gelper, S. & Lemmens, A. & Croux, C., 2007. "Consumer sentiment and consumer spending : Decomposing the granger causal relationship in the time domain," Other publications TiSEM 55ac7230-2985-41f1-a42c-7, Tilburg University, School of Economics and Management.
    5. Roberto Golinelli & Giuseppe Parigi, 2003. "What is this thing called confidence? A comparative analysis of consumer confidence indices in eight major countries," Temi di discussione (Economic working papers) 484, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.
    6. Chris Aylmer & Troy Gill, 2003. "Business Surveys and Economic Activity," RBA Research Discussion Papers rdp2003-01, Reserve Bank of Australia.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    business; confidence; consumer; forecasting; predictive ability; sentiment; survey;

    JEL classification:

    • 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

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