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Inside the Crystal Ball: How to Make and Use Forecasts

Book Description

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.

  • Table of Contents

    1. Title Page
    2. Copyright
    3. Acknowledgments
    4. Introduction: What You Need to Know about Forecasting
      1. Notes
    5. Chapter 1: What Makes a Successful Forecaster?
      1. Grading Forecasters: How Many Pass?
      2. Why It's So Difficult to Be Prescient
      3. Bad Forecasters: One-Hit Wonders, Perennial Outliers, and Copycats
      4. Success Factors: Why Some Forecasters Excel
      5. Does Experience Make Much of a Difference in Forecasting?
      6. Notes
    6. Chapter 2: The Art and Science of Making and Using Forecasts
      1. Judgment Counts More Than Math
      2. Habits of Successful Forecasters: How to Cultivate Them
      3. Judging and Scoring Forecasts by Statistics
      4. Notes
    7. Chapter 3: What Can We Learn from History?
      1. It's Never Normal
      2. Some Key Characteristics of Business Cycles
      3. National versus State Business Cycles: Does a Rising Tide Lift All Boats?
      4. U.S. Monetary Policy and the Great Depression
      5. The Great Inflation Is Hard to Forget
      6. The Great Moderation: Why It's Still Relevant
      7. Why Was There Reduced Growth Volatility during the Great Moderation?
      8. Notes
    8. Chapter 4: When Forecasters Get It Wrong
      1. The Granddaddy of Forecasting Debacles: The Great Depression
      2. The Great Recession: Grandchild of the Granddaddy
      3. The Great Recession: Lessons Learned
      4. The Productivity Miracle and the “New Economy”
      5. Productivity: Lessons Learned
      6. Y2K: The Disaster That Wasn't
      7. The Tech Crash Was Not Okay
      8. Forecasters at Cyclical Turning Points: How to Evaluate Them
      9. Forecasting Recessions
      10. Forecasting Recessions: Lessons Learned
      11. Notes
    9. Chapter 5: Can We Believe What Washington, D.C. Tells Us?
      1. Does the U.S. Government “Cook the Books” on Economic Data Reports?
      2. To What Extent Are Government Forecasts Politically Motivated?
      3. Can You Trust the Government's Analyses of Its Policies' Benefits?
      4. The Beltway's Multiplier Mania
      5. Multiplier Effects: How Real Are They?
      6. Why Government Statistics Keep “Changing Their Mind”
      7. Living with Revisions
      8. Notes
    10. Chapter 6: Four Gurus of Economics: Whom to Follow?
      1. Four Competing Schools of Economic Thought
      2. Minskyites: Should We Keep Listening to Them?
      3. Monetarists: Do They Deserve More Respect?
      4. Supply-Siders: Still a Role to Play?
      5. Keynesians: Are They Just Too Old-Fashioned?
      6. Notes
    11. Chapter 7: The “New Normal”: Time to Curb Your Enthusiasm?
      1. Must Forecasters Restrain Multiyear U.S. Growth Assumptions?
      2. Supply-Side Forecasting: Labor, Capital, and Productivity
      3. Are Demographics Destiny?
      4. Pivotal Productivity Projections
      5. Notes
    12. Chapter 8: Animal Spirits: The Intangibles behind Business Spending
      1. Animal Spirits on Main Street and Wall Street
      2. Can We Base Forecasts on Confidence Indexes?
      3. Business Confidence and Inventory Building
      4. How Do Animal Spirits Relate to Job Creation?
      5. Confidence and Capital Spending: Do They Move in Tandem?
      6. Animal Spirits and Capital Spending
      7. Notes
    13. Chapter 9: Forecasting Fickle Consumers
      1. Making and Spending Money
      2. How Do Americans Make Their Money?
      3. Will We Ever Start to Save More Money?
      4. Why Don't Americans Save More?
      5. More Wealth = Less Saving
      6. Do More Confident Consumers Save Less and Spend More?
      7. Does Income Distribution Make a Difference for Saving and Consumer Spending?
      8. Pent-Up Demand and Household Formation
      9. Notes
    14. Chapter 10: What Will It Cost to Live in the Future?
      1. Whose Prices Are You Forecasting?
      2. Humans Cannot Live on Just Core Goods and Services
      3. Sound Judgment Trumps Complexity in Forecasting Inflation
      4. Should We Forecast Inflation by Money Supply or Phillips Curve?
      5. Hitting Professor Phillips' Curve
      6. A Statistical Lesson from Reviewing Phillips Curve Research
      7. Notes
    15. Chapter 11: Interest Rates: Forecasters' Toughest Challenge
      1. Figuring the Fed
      2. Federal Open Market Committee
      3. What Is the Fed's “Reaction Function”?
      4. Is the Fed “Behind the Curve”?
      5. Can the Fed “Talk Down” Interest Rates?
      6. Bond Yields: How Reliable Are “Rules of Thumb”?
      7. Professor Bernanke's Expectations-Oriented Explanation of Long-Term Interest Rate Determinants
      8. Supply and Demand Models of Interest Rate Determination
      9. When Will OPEC, Japan, and China Stop Buying Our Bonds?
      10. What Will Be the Legacy of QE for Interest Rates?
      11. What Is the Effect of Fed MBS Purchases on Mortgage Rates?
      12. Will Projected Future Budget Deficits Raise Interest Rates?
      13. Notes
    16. Chapter 12: Forecasting in Troubled Times
      1. Natural Disasters: The Economic Cons and Pros
      2. How to Respond to a Terrorist Attack
      3. Why Oil Price Shocks Don't Shock So Much
      4. Market Crashes: Why Investors Don't Jump from Buildings Anymore
      5. Contagion Effects: When China Catches Cold, Will the United States Sneeze?
      6. Notes
    17. Chapter 13: How to Survive and Thrive in Forecasting
      1. Surviving: What to Do When Wrong
      2. Hold or Fold?
      3. Thriving: Ten Keys to a Successful Career
      4. Notes
    18. About the Author
    19. Index
    20. End User License Agreement