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September 13, 2005

A Little Of This, A Little Of That From The Forecasting Pros

Yesterday's mail brought the latest edition of the Blue Chip Economic Indicators newsletter, which rounds up the current thinking of the nation's "top analysts."   The survey results were collected on September 1 and 2, so the news associated with Katrina was still pretty raw.  According to the editors:

The effects of Hurricane Katrina – perhaps the costliest natural disaster in American history – were just beginning to be assessed when we conducted this month’s survey on September 1st and 2nd. Without reliable information and the situation rapidly evolving, the forecasts submitted to us this month appear to represent an attempt by many of our participants to provide an early post-Katrina assessment of the outlook while others are updated, but pre-Katrina takes on the economy. A handful of our regular participants choose not to provide forecasts this month, saying it was premature to attempt an assessment of Katrina’s effects.

The results are sort of interesting, nonetheless.  The consensus estimates for real GDP growth barely budged: Forecasted growth for all of 2005 was marked down to 3.5 percent, from an estimate of 3.6 in August.  The 2006 forecast fell from 3.3 percent to 3.2 percent.  The expected rate of change in the Consumer Price Index for 2005 crept up from 3 percent to 3.1 percent. For 2006 the consensus rate of inflation rose to 2.7 percent; the early August guess was 2.5 percent.

Not much drama there.  What caught my eye was this question and response:

If the [2-year/10-year] yield curve does invert, with [sic] that signal to you a sharp slowing of economic growth within the next 12 months?
(Percentage of those responding)
Yes 40.9%                       No 59.1%

Econbrowser will beg to differ, I bet.  On the other hand, the great majority don't expect this to happen, even though expectations for the federal funds rate still look fairly aggressive relative to current long-term interest rates:

What will be the FOMC’s Federal funds rate target at the end of 2005 and 2006?
FOMC’s Federal funds rate target at end of:
                    2005          2006
Consensus   3.97%         4.24%

You might infer from this that the survey respondents are expecting  to finally see some persistent northward movement in longer-term interest rates, and you would be correct.  The consensus forecast for average 10-year Treasury yields in 2006 is 4.9 percent.  And yes, that increase is expected to bite the housing market...

Will residential investment ADD TO or SUBTRACT FROM real GDP growth in 2006?
(Percentage of those responding)
Add To           Subtract From
27.3%                72.7%

... but in light of the overall forecast, the belief must be that it will be little more than a nibble.