From a small northwestern observatory…

Finance and economics generally focused on real estate

Phily Fed — Econ Forecast

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One of my favorite economic touchstones is the quarterly survey of professional economists by the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank. Forty-four economists are surveyed, including such notables as Mark Zandi from Moodys, John Silvia from Wells Fargo, and Neal Soss from Credit Suisse. The focus is on “practicing” economists rather than “academics”, and as such gives a great snapshot of what decision makers at major corporations are thinking.

The Phily Fed then takes a synopsis — both a mean and a distribution — of their collective thinking in several key areas, such as Real GDP growth, unemployment, monthly payroll growth, and inflation. The interesting factors include both the current thinking, the CHANGE in current thinking (from the previous projections) and the probability distribution.

Current thinking about GDP growth is a bit less optimistic than it was before. As noted in the graph below (reproduced from the Phily Fed’s report), prior consensus thinking put GDP growth in the 3.0% to 3.9% range, while the current consensus mid-point is between 2.0% and 2.9%. Good news — hardly anyone projects negative GDP growth for this year. As we get into out-years (the graphics are on the Phily Fed’s report), which you can download by clicking here ), the consensus is a bit blurry, but in general most economists still see GDP growth postiive and between 2% and 4%. Unfortuantely, this isn’t the best of news — for the U.S. economy to really get back on track, much stronger GDP growth is needed (solidly high 3% range and even above 4%).

Philadelphia FED GDP Projectsions 2Q 2011

Unemployment projections for 2011 are somewhat rosier. In the prior survey, the mean projection was in the range of 9.0% to 9.4%, with a significant number of economists projecting from 9.5% to 9.9%. Currently, the mean is 8.5% to 8.9%, and a signficant number project in the 8.0% to 8.4% range — a very real shift in the outlook for the nation’s economy as we head into the second half of the year. On the downside — projections for out-years (2012, 2013, and 2014) show a very slow restoration of “normality”, with mean unemployment projections above 7% in all years.

Philadelphia FED Unemployment Projections 2Q 2011

One piece of good news — and this may be the FED patting itself on the back a bit — is that its inflation projections have been quite accurate over the years, and they continue to forecast exceptionally low CPI changes over the next ten years. While the median forecast is up slightly from last quarter (2.4% up from 2.3%), this continues to be great news for consumers and bond-holders. Notably, as you can see from the graphic, there is a fair degree of agreement among economists surveyed — the interquartile range is less than a percentage-point.

Philadelphia FED Ten-Year Inflation Projections as of 2Q 2011

Written by johnkilpatrick

May 13, 2011 at 9:55 am

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