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Gauging the uncertainty of the economic outlook using historical forecasting errors: The Federal Reserve’s approach

David Reifschneider and Peter Tulip

International Journal of Forecasting, 2019, vol. 35, issue 4, 1564-1582

Abstract: The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) of the U.S. Federal Reserve regularly publishes participants’ qualitative assessments of forecast uncertainty, expressed relative to that seen on average in the past. The benchmarks used for these historical comparisons are the average root mean squared forecast errors (RMSEs) made by various private and government forecasters over the past twenty years. This paper documents how these benchmarks are constructed and discusses some of their properties. We draw several conclusions. First, if past performance is a reasonable guide to future accuracy, considerable uncertainty surrounds macroeconomic projections. Second, different forecasters have similar accuracy. Third, estimates of uncertainty about future real activity and interest rates are now considerably greater than prior to the financial crisis; in contrast, estimates of inflation accuracy have changed little. Finally, fan charts, constructed under certain assumptions and viewed in conjunction with the FOMC’s qualitative assessments, provide a reasonable approximation to future uncertainty.

Date: 2019
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Persistent link: https://EconPapers.repec.org/RePEc:eee:intfor:v:35:y:2019:i:4:p:1564-1582

DOI: 10.1016/j.ijforecast.2018.07.016

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