Economic Forecast Survey Results: The Pros versus the Joes

Posted on

In 2014 we began conducting an annual survey of economic forecasts from government practitioners (March of 2014 and April of 2015). The results contain the consensus of government practitioners (represented by the median forecast) compared to those conducted by Bloomberg of Wall Street professionals, as well as the results of the individual rankings.

Although the fifteen-page PDF contains all the tables and graphs, I would like to briefly cover a few points of interest before discussing the individual results and winners.

*NOTE: The GGFOA began participating in the survey in April 2015. GGFOA participants are included in “GIOA Survey Median Forecast: 04-2015” results.
 

Government Forecasters Tended to Do Better

The graph below represents the median forecasts from the March 2014 and the April 2015 surveys for the Government Investment Officers Association (GIOA) and Wall Street professionals (Bloomberg).

The solid black line with the filled in black dots represents the Constant Maturity 2 Year Treasury for the close of each month, up to the most recent, 3/31/16 month-end. The black and brown dashed lines represent the Bloomberg forecasts (median) as of March 2014 and April 2015, respectively.  The light blue line and the dark blue line represent the GIOA survey forecasts (median) as of March 2014 and April 2015, respectively.  Although there is a distribution of forecasts around the median forecast for each survey, it is reasonable to use the average forecast.  “If you’re looking for an economic forecast, the best place to turn is the average or aggregate prediction, rather than that of any one economist.[1]

A visual inspection of the graph shows that government forecasters tended to do a better job with their predictions from March 2014 and from April 2015.  This result seemed to be the case across the economic variables for which a survey was taken (Fed Funds Rate, 2 Year Treasury Yield, 10 Year Treasury Yield, Unemployment Rate and Inflation).  See pages 4 through 8 of the PDF GIOA Economic Forecast Results Mar-2014 Apr-2015.  The median forecast is used for both groups as representative of each group’s consensus forecast for each variable and forecast date.  If you would like to see the graphical forecast distributions, then please email me directly and I will send the charts to you.


And the Winners Are…

To maintain the anonymity of participants, we assigned fictional IDs for the GIOA forecast survey.  The below table is sorted by overall rank.  The overall rank is a simple average of the rank for each forecaster across the five economic variables.  The top forecaster from the March 2014 survey for the five economic variables as of December2015 was Obi-Wan Kenobi. 

And the top forecaster from the April 2015 survey for the five economic variables as of December2015 was Holly Golightly.  


The third page of the PDF (GIOA Economic Forecast Results Mar-2014 Apr-2015) contains the rankings of the Bloomberg survey for the April 2015 survey for which Bank of America was the top ranked forecaster. 
 

Please Participate

I encourage you to participate in the survey for April 2016.  The Excel spreadsheet has a place to enter your name, institution, email address and forecasts. All forecasts should be entered as percentages.

In order to keep results anonymous, please choose a fictional ID to be used in place of your name. If you do not provide a fictional ID, you will be assigned one.

Pages 9 to 13 of the PDF (GIOA Economic Forecast Results Mar-2014 Apr-2015) shows the forecasts from the Bloomberg Economic Survey for March 2016, in case you need some guidance on what the market was thinking about the future.  If you already have a fictional ID assigned to you then we will use it again unless you wish to change it.  If you do not have a fictional ID assigned to you, then a random one will be assigned to you or you can pick one, assuming it is not already in use.  At the end of this article are some graphs and links for the historical numbers on each of the economic variables in the forecast survey.


The Usefulness of Forecasts

You may be asking yourself what the usefulness of forecasts are if the forecasters seem to keep getting it wrong.  It has been my contention that, while the evidence does show that economic forecasters are bad, it is also true that bad economic forecasts can be good for you.  While that may sound like a Chestertonian paradox, the point is less obtuse than anything the prince of paradox would embrace. 

Consider what a distribution of forecasts shows (for example, the visual breakdowns on pages 9 to 13 of the PDF GIOA Economic Forecast Results Mar-2014 Apr-2015.).  The distribution gives a view of the likely path of interest rates and economic activity represented by the market.  Although the individual point forecasts will most certainly be off, the range of outcomes can help in formulating strategy and provide context for understanding the relationship between investment opportunities. 

I look forward to hearing from you and adding your forecasts to the survey.  If you have any questions, please email me at kwebb@cantor.com and I will be happy to help.

 

[1] Silver, Nate (2012-09-27). The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail-but Some Don't (p. 197). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.

 

The Economic Variables

Fed Funds Rate

 

2 Year Treasury Yield

 

10 Year Treasury Yield

 

Unemployment Rate

 

Inflation Rate (CPI Year-Over-Year)

 

Disclaimer

The information herein has been obtained from sources Cantor Fitzgerald and Co. (Cantor) believes to be reliable, but Cantor does not represent or warrant that it is accurate or complete. This information has been prepared solely for informational purposes.  It is not an endorsement of, or a solicitation to purchase, any of the products or services mentioned herein.  Cantor disclaims all liability for the accuracy or completeness of the information provided by any vendors or contained in any websites mentioned herein. 

 

This article written by:

Kevin Webb, CFA