As Paul Samuelson famously stated, the stock market has predicted nine of the last five recessions. An alternative statement—and this is also true of yield curve inversions—is that no U. As a recent San Francisco Fed Economic Letter carefully illustrated, yield curve inversions have the additional record of indicating only one false positive in the U.
If we cared equally about forecasting recessions and expansions, these properties would be well-reflected in the Brier score; however, if we view recessions—or more accurately, elevated probabilities of a recession—as more concerning than elevated probabilities of an expansion, then Brier scoring is not sufficient.
As Tetlock writes, "One problem is that Brier scores treat false alarms the same as misses. Another issue Tetlock raises is that prediction of binary outcomes of clearly stated problems, while useful for tracking forecast accuracy and learning good technique, leaves a lot of information to still be determined. For the question I posed on the probability of a recession, we would also want to have forecasts of how moderate or deep the recession would be if it occurred.
This is particularly true in the current environment of low natural rates of interest, where recessions are more likely to be associated with trips to the zero lower bound ZLB and the ability to further reduce the policy rate is constrained. A topic beyond the scope of Superforecasting— but very relevant for the forecasting of recessions—is that policy decisions given the probability assessment can affect the actual outcome.
This relationship suggests that extremizing results is much more useful for forecast tournaments than in every day practice for central bankers. Further, economic outcomes can be partly determined by multiple equilibria or animal spirits, which themselves can be influenced by current decisions and communications.
For example, we have heard from market contacts that FOMC participants' recent discussions of the link between yield curve inversion and recessions could encourage some economic agents to believe a recession will occur if the yield curve does invert. This brings me to the fundamental question of why a particular pattern of asset price moves tends to precede recessions.
Let's suppose for now we have estimated and evaluated the best possible model to incorporate the statistical implications of these asset price patterns on recession probabilities and of the depth of a recession based on the available data.
Is the model showing a causal relationship or is it just a predictive relationship with a different causal factor driving both asset prices and the real economy? And if the latter, what are the causal factors?
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