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Instructions

Complete FREDcast User Manual

FREDcast is an interactive forecasting game in which players make forecasts for four economic releases: GDP, inflation, employment, and unemployment. All forecasts are for the current month—or current quarter in the case of GDP. Forecasts must be submitted by the 20th of the current month. For real GDP growth, players submit a forecast for current-quarter GDP each month during the current quarter. Forecasts for each of the four variables are scored for accuracy, and a total monthly score is obtained from these scores. Scores for each monthly forecast are based on the magnitude of the forecast error. These monthly scores are weighted over time and accumulated to give an overall performance.

Higher scores reflect greater accuracy over time. Past months' performances are downweighted so that more-recent performance plays a larger part in the scoring.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need a FRED account to participate?

Yes.

What country's data am I forecasting?

All FREDcast series are data for the United States.

What is a release date?

Release dates are the days that economic agencies release economic data to the public. Economic data is always released on a lag, for example, March payroll employment is release on the first Friday in April. For 2016, the release date for March payroll employment is April 1, 2016.

What am I forecasting for GDP?

Output growth is the seasonally adjusted annualized quarter-to-quarter percentage change advance estimate of GDP from the previous final estimate of GDP, rounded to the nearest tenth of a percent. The advance estimate is the release that is available one month after the end of the quarter. The advance estimates for GDP are released at the end of January, April, July, and October.

Why do I forecast the same GDP number three times?

GDP is a quarterly variable and the forecast period is a month. Thus, users forecast the same quarterly GDP value for each of the three months in the quarter. Each of these forecasts is evaluated against the same advance estimate of GDP.

What am I forecasting for unemployment?

Unemployment is the seasonally adjusted level of the headline unemployment rate in percentage points rounded to the nearest tenth of a percent. The unemployment data are usually released on the first Friday of the month.

What am I forecasting for inflation?

Inflation is the percent change from one year ago in the headline CPI rounded to the nearest tenth of a percent. The CPI data are released in the middle of the month.

What am I forecasting for employment?

Employment growth is the seasonally adjusted monthly change in nonfarm payroll employment to the nearest thousand persons. The employment data are usually released on the first Friday of the month.

Am I really forecasting for the current month?

Yes. The forecasts for each month must be made by the 20th of that month. Let's use May as our example: You must provide a forecast for May's GDP, CPI, unemployment, and employment by May 20. In technical terms, this is a "zero-horizon" forecast.

If I already entered a forecast for the current month, can I change my forecast?

Yes. Provided you do so before the deadline.

Why are there two leaderboards?

There are two types of scores in FREDcast: monthly points and all-time scores. Monthly points are a measure of how well a player does in any one particular month. All-time scores are a weighted aggregation of monthly points. A player’s monthly points affect the all-time score, but the all-time score does not affect monthly points.

How are the monthly points calculated?

A player’s forecasts are scored separately for accuracy and then summed up to one monthly points score. A player can earn up to 250 points for each economic data series, for a potential total of 1,000 points each month. Points awarded are inversely related to the player’s absolute forecast error. A higher absolute forecast error (i.e., your forecast is farther away from the actual release) means fewer monthly points. Use the send feedback form to request exact formulas.

How are the all-time scores calculated?

The all-time score is a weighted sum of monthly points. In other words, a player’s all-time score is adjusted up or down by the points earned from previous forecasts. A player’s current monthly points receive the greatest weight in the all-time score, while prior monthly points diminish in weight. The effect of points earned from prior months’ forecasts on the all-time score lessens over time, but will never be zero. Use the send feedback form to request exact formulas.

For example, a user who earns the full 1,000 points in one month but who did poorly in previous months (or has not forecasted in the past) may receive a lower all-time score than someone whose forecasts consistently have smaller forecast errors.

Why is my all-time score less than my monthly points?

The all-time score is weighted, so the most recent monthly points are multiplied by approximately 0.5. If you do not have a long scoring history to add to your current monthly points, it is likely that your all-time score is lower than your current monthly points score.

Is a higher score better?

Yes. Negative scores are bad.

Do prior months’ forecasts affect a player’s monthly points?

No.

Do prior months’ forecasts affect a player’s all-time score?

Yes.

My forecasts for GDP and the unemployment rate both missed by 0.1 percentage points but my score for GDP was higher. Why is that?

The scores for forecasting different economic releases also take into account how difficult it is to forecast those specific releases. The sample variance of GDP is higher than the variance of unemployment, so the score for forecasting GDP is weighted higher in a player's overall score for the month.

Can two players end up with different all-time scores following identical monthly forecasts?

Yes. There are two scenarios where players may end up with different all-time scores following identical monthly forecasts.

  • If Player A and Player B forecast the same values in May resulting in the same monthly points for May, but Player B forecasted different values from Player A in April, then Player B’s all-time score will not equal Player A’s.
  • If two players have forecasted the same values in one month, but Player A has a longer history than Player B, their all-time scores will be different.

Why is my monthly points score negative?

Up to 250 points are awarded for each economic data series. The scoring formula starts with 250 and takes points away based on how far a player’s forecast is from the actual number. A larger distance means fewer points. If a forecast is sufficiently far away from the actual number, the total amount of points lost will exceed 250 and result in a negative score.

What is a league?

A league is a collection of players who have a private leaderboard for forecasts. This allows members of a class or a company to compete against each other. The league will have a separate page for a league leaderboard that displays the distributions of the league's forecasts and tracks how the players are doing.

How do I start/join a league?

The leagues are formed when a "commissioner" (e.g., teacher) solicits a league ID from FRED. The league ID includes a passcode that the commissioner shares with the other participants. The participants sign up for a FRED account, enter the passcode, and join the league.

If I'm in a league, am I also in the public league?

Yes.

Can users inside my league see my forecasts?

No.

If my league is for a class, does my account stay active after the class ends?

Yes. Even if your league disbands, your FRED account keeps your account open and you can continue to make forecasts within the public league.


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