A practical guide to understanding economic forecasts In Inside the Crystal Ball: How to Make and Use Forecasts, UBS Chief U.S. Economist Maury Harris helps readers improve their own forecasting abilities by examining the elements and processes that characterize successful and failed forecasts. The book: *Provides insights from Maury Harris, named among Bloomberg's 50 Most Influential People in Global Finance. *Demonstrates "best practices" in the assembly and evaluation of forecasts. Harris walks readers through the real-life steps he and other successful forecasters take in preparing their projections. These valuable procedures can help forecast users evaluate forecasts and forecasters as inputs for making their own specific business and investment decisions. *Emphasizes the critical role of judgment in improving projections derived from purely statistical methodologies. Harris explores the prerequisites for sound forecasting judgment a good sense of history and an understanding of contemporary theoretical frameworks in readable and illuminating detail.
*Addresses everyday forecasting issues, including the credibility of government statistics and analyses, fickle consumers, and volatile business spirits. Harris also offers procedural guidelines for special circumstances, such as natural disasters, terrorist threats, gyrating oil and stock prices, and international economic crises. *Evaluates major contemporary forecasting issues including the now commonplace hypothesis of sustained economic sluggishness, possible inflation outcomes in an environment of falling unemployment, and projecting interest rates when central banks implement unprecedented low interest rate and quantitative easing (QE) policies. *Brings to life Harris's own experiences and those of other leading economists in his almost four-decade career as a professional economist and forecaster. Dr. Harris presents his personal recipes for long-term credibility and commercial success to anyone offering advice about the future.
MAURY HARRIS is a Managing Director and Chief Economist for the Americas for the UBS investment bank. Dr. Harris has led forecasting teams ranked as the most accurate in the country in four separate years over the past decade. In addition, he has been named numerous times to the Institutional Investor (II) All-America Research Team over the past two decades. Dr. Harris is a past President of the Forecaster's Club of New York. Prior to the UBS AG acquisition of PaineWebber Incorporated, he was the Chief Economist for PaineWebber. Before that, Dr. Harris worked for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and The Bank for International Settlements. Dr. Harris holds a PhD in economics from Columbia University, an MA in economics from Columbia University, and a BA in economics from the University of Texas, where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa. He is married with two children.
Acknowledgments xiii Introduction: What You Need to Know about Forecasting xv Chapter 1 What Makes a Successful Forecaster? 1 Grading Forecasters: How Many Pass? 2 Why It's So Difficult to Be Prescient 8 Bad Forecasters: One-Hit Wonders, Perennial Outliers, and Copycats 16 Success Factors: Why Some Forecasters Excel 22 Does Experience Make Much of a Difference in Forecasting? 23 Chapter 2 The Art and Science of Making and Using Forecasts 27 Judgment Counts More Than Math 28 Habits of Successful Forecasters: How to Cultivate Them 34 Judging and Scoring Forecasts by Statistics 43 Chapter 3 What Can We Learn from History? 51 It s Never Normal 52 Some Key Characteristics of Business Cycles 55 National versus State Business Cycles: Does a Rising Tide Lift All Boats? 62 U.S. Monetary Policy and the Great Depression 65 The Great Inflation Is Hard to Forget 68 The Great Moderation: Why It s Still Relevant 73 Why Was There Reduced Growth Volatility during the Great Moderation? 75 Chapter 4 When Forecasters Get It Wrong 79 The Granddaddy of Forecasting Debacles: The Great Depression 80 The Great Recession: Grandchild of the Granddaddy 81 The Great Recession: Lessons Learned 85 The Productivity Miracle and the "New Economy" 86 Productivity: Lessons Learned 88 Y2K: The Disaster That Wasn't 90 The Tech Crash Was Not Okay 92 Forecasters at Cyclical Turning Points: How to Evaluate Them 96 Forecasting Recessions 99 Forecasting Recessions: Lessons Learned 101 Chapter 5 Can We Believe What Washington, D.C. Tells Us? 105 Does the U.S. Government "Cook the Books" on Economic Data Reports? 106 To What Extent Are Government Forecasts Politically Motivated? 109 Can You Trust the Government's Analyses of Its Policies' Benefits? 114 The Beltway s Multiplier Mania 120 Multiplier Effects: How Real Are They? 124 Why Government Statistics Keep Changing Their Mind 127 Living with Revisions 133 Chapter 6 Four Gurus of Economics: Whom to Follow? 137 Four Competing Schools of Economic Thought 139 Minskyites: Should We Keep Listening to Them? 140 Monetarists: Do They Deserve More Respect? 149 Supply-Siders: Still a Role to Play? 156 Keynesians: Are They Just Too Old-Fashioned? 161 Chapter 7 The "New Normal": Time to Curb Your Enthusiasm? 171 Must Forecasters Restrain Multiyear U.S. Growth Assumptions? 173 Supply-Side Forecasting: Labor, Capital, and Productivity 175 Are Demographics Destiny? 179 Pivotal Productivity Projections 184 Chapter 8 Animal Spirits: The Intangibles Behind Business Spending 199 Animal Spirits on Main Street and Wall Street 201 Can We Base Forecasts on Confidence Indexes? 207 Business Confidence and Inventory Building 208 How Do Animal Spirits Relate to Job Creation? 213 Confidence and Capital Spending: Do They Move in Tandem? 217 Animal Spirits and Capital Spending 226 Chapter 9 Forecasting Fickle Consumers 229 Making and Spending Money 230 How Do Americans Make Their Money? 231 Will We Ever Start to Save More Money? 237 Why Don't Americans Save More? 239 More Wealth = Less Saving 240 Do More Confident Consumers Save Less and Spend More? 248 Does Income Distribution Make a Difference for Saving and Consumer Spending? 250 Pent-Up Demand and Household Formation 252 Chapter 10 What Will It Cost to Live in the Future? 259 Whose Prices Are You Forecasting? 260 Humans Cannot Live on Just Core Goods and Services 261 Sound Judgment Trumps Complexity in Forecasting Inflation 266 Should We Forecast Inflation by Money Supply or Phillips Curve? 271 Hitting Professor Phillips' Curve 271 A Statistical Lesson from Reviewing Phillips Curve Research 280 Chapter 11 Interest Rates: Forecasters' Toughest Challenge 285 Figuring the Fed 288 Federal Open Market Committee 288 What Is the Fed's "Reaction Function"? 290 Is the Fed "Behind the Curve"? 293 Can the Fed "Talk Down" Interest Rates? 294 Bond Yields: How Reliable Are "Rules of Thumb"? 294 Professor Bernanke's Expectations-Oriented Explanation of Long-Term Interest Rate Determinants 297 Supply and Demand Models of Interest Rate Determination 299 When Will OPEC, Japan, and China Stop Buying Our Bonds? 302 What Will Be the Legacy of QE for Interest Rates? 304 What Is the Effect of Fed MBS Purchases on Mortgage Rates? 309 Will Projected Future Budget Deficits Raise Interest Rates? 309 Chapter 12 Forecasting in Troubled Times 315 Natural Disasters: The Economic Cons and Pros 316 How to Respond to a Terrorist Attack 321 Why Oil Price Shocks Don't Shock So Much 325 Market Crashes: Why Investors Don't Jump from Buildings Anymore 332 Contagion Effects: When China Catches Cold, Will the United States Sneeze? 334 Chapter 13 How to Survive and Thrive in Forecasting 341 Surviving: What to Do When Wrong 345 Hold or Fold? 348 Thriving: Ten Keys to a Successful Career 349 About the Author 355 Index 357