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Posts Tagged ‘Livingston Survey

Livingston Survey strengthens

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One of my economic “touchstones” is the semi-annual Livingston Survey, begun in 1946 by the famed economist and journalist Joseph A. Livingston.  The survey continues today under the auspices of the Philadelphia FED.  Twice a year they survey a panel of economic forecasters on the key metrics of unemployment, GDP growth, inflation, T-Bill and Bond rates, and the S&P 500.  Not only are their opinions of interest, but also the change in the central tendency of those opinions over time.

For example, six months ago, the panel forecasted that year-end unemployment would be 4.3%, with a slight decline to 4.2% by mid-year, 2018.  Now, this forecast has shifted slightly downward, with an expected year-end unemployment rate of 4.1%, mid-year 2018 projected at 4.0%, and year-end 2018 at 3.9%.  These are decidedly low numbers, and suggest an econonomy at nearly full steam. (“Frictional” unemployment, which is the lowest level we would normally see, is generally thought to be close to 3%.)

Previously, year-end GDP growth was projected to come in at about 2.5%.  That’s now up to 2.9%, settling back to about 2.5% by mid-year 2018.  Projections of inflation are also solid, with CPI ending the year at about 2.1% and PPI (producer price index) at about 3.0%.  Both of these estimates are slightly lower than previously forecasted.  Intriguingly, CPI is forecasted to stay about the same in the coming year, while PPI should decline to about 2.0% by the end of the year next year.

The cost of debt is projected to increase in 2018, albeit at modest rates (and lower than previously projected).  Previously, the 10-year bond rate was forecasted to end the year at about 2.75%, but now should end the year at about 2.45%, according to the panel.  Rates should rise in 2018, but more slowly than previously projected, ending 2018 around 3.0%

Finally, the June survey projected that the S&P 500 would end the year at 2470, but now the panelists think the market will end the year at 2644.  (I note that the S&P sits at 2691 as I write this.)  The S&P is projected to end 2018 at 2805, or about 6% higher for the year.

The full survey also contains data on a variety of other topics (auto sales, corporate profits, average weekly earnings, etc.).  You can subscribe by visiting the Phily Fed at www.philadelphiafed.org/notifications.

 

Written by johnkilpatrick

December 18, 2017 at 11:25 am

Livingston Survey

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I’ve noted in the past that one of my favorite economic forecasts comes from the Philadelphia FED.  The semi-annual Livingston Survey captures the sentiments of 28 leading economic forecasters on key metrics, such as unemployment, GDP growth, and inflation.  Year after year, the forecast remains fairly accurate and steady — much to the disappointment of politicians who fail to realize that the worlds largest non-centrally-planned economy changes course fairly slowly.

Of course, 2017 may be a bit of an exception.  Indeed, so was 2009.  The forecast can’t take into account shocks to the system (such as the recent economic melt-down) nor can it handle significant policy shifts from D.C.  I have some “gut” feelings that differ a bit from the Livingston folks, and I’ll note those at the end.

Now, on to the details.  GDP growth for the second half of 2016 was a bit better than had been previously forecast, coming in at about 2.7% rather than the previously forecast 2.4%.  Looking forward, the forecasters project a 2.2% annualized growth in the economy during the first half of the coming year, rising slightly to 2.4% in the second half of 2017.

Ironically, unemployment appears to be coming in slightly higher than forecasted, about 4.9% rather than the previously projected 4.7%.  Of course, neither of these numbers is anything to complain about.  Forecasters look to continued improvement in the unemployment numbers through the coming year, ending up around 4.6% next December.

Inflation measured by the consumer price index (CPI) is right on target at 1.3%.  Next year, forecasters are projecting 2.4% (slightly up from previous 2017 forecasts) and the crystal balls (which is all they are this far out) suggest 2.5% in 2018.  The yield curve is ending the year a bit steeper than previously projected.  Earlier forecasts put the short end (3-month T-Bill) at 0.75% and the long end (10-year) at 2.25%.  Currently, they see the year ending at 0.55% and 2.3% respectively.  For 2017, the soothsayers forecast a year-end 1.12% at the short end and 2.75% at the high.  This is somewhat higher at the high end and lower at the near end than had been projected previously, suggesting an expectation of higher overall interest rates in the future.  Finally, forecasters see the stock market rising over the next two years, but at a fairly lackluster rate.

I promised my own bit of forecasting.  During the tumultuous months surrounding the recent melt-down, I played a bit of follow-the-leader with this survey, and went on record that the melt-down would be short-lived.  Boy was I wrong!  As noted, this survey is pretty good when the economic ship is on a steady course, but doesn’t handle rough water very well.  For the past several years, we’ve had an unprecedented period of economic growth, by all metrics (GDP, stock prices, unemployment, and inflation).  Just from a pure market-cycle perspective, we may be overdue for some unpleasantries.  Looking at the political horizon, I’ve already noted that politicians are generally disappointed that the economy doesn’t move as quickly as they wish or even in the desired directly.  That said, we have a Congress that is frothing to trim the Federal budget, and will probably opt to do so in the transfer payments arena (welfare, health care subsidies, etc.).  They’ll hope to balance this with tax cuts.  However, tax cuts fall slowly, and on one sector of the economy, while entitlement cuts (and any budget cuts, for that matter) happen quickly and are usually borne by a different segment of the economy.   I think I’ll be watching GDP reports fairly closely for the next couple of years.  I would note what happened in the years leading up to the 1982 recession — not withstanding inflation (driving nominal interest rates), the economy looked OK in 1981, and the metrics were generally pointed in the right direction.  (For a good visual representation, I’d refer you to the August, 1981, report to Congress of the Council of Economic Advisors, a copy of which you can view on the St. Louis FED’s website by clicking here.)

All in all, we’ve been focused on politics for the past several months, and now we’re going to find if those political decisions have actual economic repercussions.  Stay tuned!

December’s Livingston Survey

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The late columnist Joseph A Livingston started surveying economists about their forecasts back in 1946. It’s the oldest continuing survey of its kind, and is continued twice a year under the auspices of the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank. One of the neat things about this semi-annual report is that it compares the current central tendency of projections to the projections which were being made six months ago. In short, we can directly compare how economic forecasts are changing over time.

One of the biggest shifts is in the GDP growth rate for the 2nd half of 2015.  Six months ago, economists were projecting that we’d end the year with a modestly healthy 3.1% annual rate of growth.  Now, economists are forecasting we’ll end the year at about 2.1% — a fairly significant shift in sentiment.  Similar declines in GDP growth are projected for 2016.  Check my prior blog post about the 12th District report on the western economy, and particularly the impact a stronger dollar is having on the export market.

The good news — and it’s slight — is an improvement in the projections about unemployment.  Six months ago, economists were forecasting we’d end the year with an unemployment rate of 5.1%.  This has now been revised downward, ever so slightly, to 4.9%.  Also, inflation continues to be dead-on-arrival.  From the end of 2014 to the end of 2015, the consumer price index is projected to rise only 0.1%, in line with prior forecasts, and the producer price index is actually projected to fall by 3.2%.  Both indices are expected to swell in the coming year, but only slightly.  The current CPI forecast for the coming year is 1.8%, and PPI is 0.7%.  I’ll leave it up to the reader to pick a reason for this, but can you say “energy costs”?

Six months ago, interest rates were forecasted to rise.  Actual increases are somewhat lower than previously forecasted.  Six months ago, forecasters predicted we’d end the year with 3-month T-bill rates at 0.59%.  In reality, the November 23 auction was at 0.14%, although rates are trending up in December (0.28% as of Monday) in anticipation of Fed rate increases.  The current forecast is for 3-month rates to end the year around 0.23%, and for 1-year rates to end around 2.3% (down from the previously forecasted 2.5%).  Forecasters currently predict 3-month T-bills will hit 1.12% by the end of 2016, and 10-year notes will end next year around 2.75%.

Finally, forecasters are asked to predict the S&P 500 index for the end of the year as well as the end of next year.  Six months ago, the consensus forecast was an S&P level of 2158 for the end of the year, and this has now softened to 2090.  (It’s helpful to note that the S&P opened just under 2048 this morning.)  Forecasters currently project the S&P will hit about 2185 by the end of next year, which is an anemic growth of 4.5% over the coming 12 months.

If you’d like your own copy, which includes much more detail on these forecasts, you can download it for free here.

The Livingston Survey — Semi-Good News

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Regular readers of this blog will note that I’m enamored with the Philadelphia FED’s surveys of professional economists. They actually do two surveys — one quarterly series, which has a slightly larger survey base, but doesn’t go into as much depth; and the semi-annual Livingston Survey, which has a smaller audience but a lot of detail. For direct access to the current Livingston Survey, click here.

Bottom line? The first half of 2011 isn’t as rosy as economists previously predicted, but they’re still modestly bullish on the second half of the year. Currently, the annualized GDP estimate is an anemic 2.2%, down from an almost-equally boring 2.5% in the December survey. However, GDP growth in the second half of the year is expected to be even stronger than previously thought, with second-half growth forecasted at an annual rate of 3.2%. More significantly, previous estimates of unemployment are being cut. In the last survey, economists collectively projected that year-end 2011 unemployment would stand at 9.2%; today, that projection has been lowered to 8.6%. Of course, these projections were surveyed before the most recent nasty jobs-growth reports, so everyone who uses this data is taking a bit of a “wait and see” prospective.

The nasty news is on the inflation front — prior estimates put the consumer price index rise from 2010 to 2011 at 1.6%; current consensus thinking is 3.1%. While that doesn’t sound like much, the producer price index is even worse — a prior estimate of 1.9% is now being revised to 6.3%. Both indices are expected to settle down in 2012, but we can only hope.

With that in mind, projections of T-Bill and T-Note rates are, not unexpectedly, higher than previously thought. The current 3-month T-Bill rate (as of this morning) is 0.04%. Current thinking is that we will end June in the range of 0.08%, but that by the end of 2012, 3-month bill rates will be up to 1.58%. Ten-year Note rates will follow a similar, but slightly flatter pattern (representing a slight expected flattening in the yield curve). The 10-year composit Note rate as of this morning (according to the Treasury Department) was 3.77%. Economists actually project it will decline a bit by month-end (to 3.25%), then rise slightly by the end of 2012 to 4.5%.

Written by johnkilpatrick

June 9, 2011 at 8:06 am

Two in one day?

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Yeah…. Friday seems to be busy.

Two of my favorite newsletters hit my desk today — the Conerly Businomics Newsletter from Dr. Bill Conerly and the Philadelphia FED’s Survey of Professional Forecasters. You can reach the first one via the link on the right of this page (scroll down and look for Conerly). I’ll take a couple of minutes on the second one, though.

For quite a few years, the Phily FED has surveyed a host of leading economic forecasters (this quarter, it’s 43), and reported their median expectations on inflation, GDP growth, etc., as well as the dispersion around the median. The median gives a fairly good idea of the central tendency of economic thinking, and the dispersion measures let us know how “solid” that central tendency is. In general, this group tends to move together, which means that the dispersion measures usually aren’t very great, and when they’re wrong, they’re all wrong together. (Intriguingly, that means that economic markets are efficient but for unpredictable economic shocks. That in and of itself could lead to a wonderful discussion of Arbitrage Pricing Theory, but I don’t have time or patience for that…)

Even more interesting — and this may be the best stuff in the report — is the change in sentiment from one quarter to another. In short, how is new information being captured in economic forecasts? The magnitude and direction of change is often a more important element in the market than the absolute value of things. For example, prices are what they are, but the CHANGE in prices over time, and the magnitude of that change, is called inflation. Get it?

The following chart shows the consensus opinions on GDP growth for the coming 3 years. As you can see, there is a generally higher consensus for this year and next, and in fact (as not reflected on this chart) the biggest “jump” is in near-term growth rates, which are expected to be particularly robust during the first half of 2011.

(c) Greenfield Advisors LLC, with data from the Philadelphia FED

Coupled with that, we see marginal improvement in the unemployment picture, although (and consistent with our own thinking) unemployment will continue to be a drag on the economy for quite a few years to come.

(c) Greenfield Advisors LLC, with data from the Philadelphia FED

For a complete copy of the survey results, visit the Philadelphia FED by clicking here.

Written by johnkilpatrick

February 11, 2011 at 10:53 am

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