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Vol. 90, No. 3, Part 1 (Posted 2008-05-01)

FOMC Consensus Forecasts

by William T. Gavin and Geetanjali Pande

In November 2007, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) announced a change in the way it communicates its view of the economic outlook: It increased the frequency of its forecasts from two to four times per year, and it increased the length of the forecasting horizon from two to three years. The FOMC does not release the individual members’ forecasts or standard measures of consensus such as the mean or median. Rather, it continues to release the forecast information as a range of forecasts, both the full range between the high and the low and a central tendency that omits the extreme values. This paper uses individual forecaster data from the Survey of Professional Forecasters (SPF) to mimic the FOMC’s method for creating their central tendency. The authors show that the midpoint of the central tendency of the SPF is a reliable measure of the consensus, suggesting that the FOMC reporting method is also a reliable measure of consensus. For the dates when both are available, the authors also compare the relative forecast accuracy of the FOMC and SPF consensus forecasts for output growth and inflation. Overall, the differences in forecast accuracy are too small to be statistically significant.

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