Here is shown US Recessions Anticipation accuracy, the comparison between the CMI model signal and the US recession anticipations made by IMF, World Bank, and the US Federal Reserve.
Let us consider the evolution of the US recessions anticipation made by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank (WB), and the US Federal Reserve (Fed) from January to October 2008, and the effect of these forecasts on the Fed’s monetary policy. For comparison, the CMI model signal of the US 2007-2009 recession beginning was generated in the summer of 2007 (see “Empirical Verification of the CMI model” section).
.According to economic data that was available in January, it was impossible to identify unambiguously that the US economy already was in recession for almost two months (that became officially available almost one year later, i.e., post-factum). Moreover, available information allowed IMF, WB, and Fed to forecast economic growth both for 2008 and 2009. For example, WB anticipated a +1,9% growth rate for 2008 and +2,3% for 2009. Also, IMF did not expect the recession and anticipated economic growth for the US of +1,5% in 2008. At the same time, Fed anticipated a growth rate of +1,3÷2,0% in 2008 with further acceleration up to +2,1÷2,7% in 2009 and even up to +2,5÷3,0% in 2010.
The downward trend for financial indexes (that started at the end of 2007) reached its trough in March 2008. It caused some bankrupts for well-known financial banks (Bear Stearns, for example). The financial shock of March 2008 was accompanied by an economic growth slowdown that caused recession fears, and there was no model to forecast it unambiguously. As result (almost simultaneously) Fed, IMF, and WB downgraded their January forecasts, assuming “mild recession” for the US economy in 2008. Thus, Fed decreased the GDP growth rate forecast for 2008 from 1,3÷2,0% to 0,3÷1,2%, but at the same time increased its growth forecast for 2009 and 2010 from 2,5÷3,0% to 2,6÷3,1% (so, they expected really “mild recession”, probably, as it was in 2001). And IMF decreased its GDP growth forecast for 2008 from +1,5% to +0,6%.
Then Fed and other regulators started acting according to their new forecast: interest rates decreased aggressively from 5% to 2% during 2nd quarter with reduced taxes at the same time. However, regulators had no reliable information about the efficiency of these actions: were the actions enough to avoid a new recession? They were forced to wait for new statistical data to answer this question unambiguously.
New statistical data has shown that aggressive regulation policy caused some improvement in the economy. And Fed has stopped the interest rate decreasing fearing inflation accelerating (while crude oil and food prices have been dramatically rising) and declared that inflation (not growth) became the main goal for Fed. After some statistics improved Fed, IMF again increased their GDP forecast for 2008 from 0,3÷1,2% to 1,0÷1,6% and remained unchanged forecast for 2009 (2,6÷3,1%)9,. However, the question — is whether the aggressive policy of regulators was enough to avoid a new recession. — remained without an answer. As became known post-factum only, despite the temporary improvement of the statistics in the 2nd quarter of 2008, new the US recession (later named as Great Recession) was continuing for an 8th straight month already. And 2-3 months remained before the huge financial crash (bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers – one of the biggest the US investment bank).
Thus, only after the Great Recession became evident for everybody did, Fed starts in October 2008 a new highly aggressive monetary policy (named “quantitative easing”) to fight the recession. At least indirectly, it confirms conceptual problems of well-known models to forecast unambiguously the recession starting point. Let us demonstrate these problems by considering some popular practice models as examples.
Composite Leading Indicator Index (CLI-index model). Figure 1 shows the recession signals of the CLI-index model presented as a probability of the recession. If we assume the threshold value of the recession signal as 0,5, the model will generate two false signals (in 1967, 1996) and missed signal in 2001. If we assume any signal is a recession, about 50% of all signals will be false. Thus, the CLI-index model does not allow us to separate a true signal from a false one for every period.
Fig. 1. Recession probability in the US based on Composite Leading Indicators Index (CLI) (Travis, 2011). Grey columns – official duration of the US recessions (www.nber.org)
Figure 2 presents one of many modifications of Probit-models, i.e. Probit-model with the T-bonds yield spread by Wright (2006). As Probit-model is some combination of the CLI-index and one financial indicator, it provides better results for recession anticipation than just the CLI-index method.
Fig. 2 Recession signals for the US economy based on the Probit model by Wright, 2006
Grey columns – official duration of the US recessions (www.nber.org)
However, forecasting accuracy of different modifications of Probit-models highly depends on indicators that were chosen to characterize the financial sector of the US economy. Depending on the indicator choice, one version of the model generated the recession signal with a probability of 30% in 2016, but the other one — with a probability of 81% (Ergungor, 2016).
Chicago Fed National Activity Index (CFNAI-MA3)
Figure 3 shows the monthly dynamics of the CFNAI-MA3 index proposed by the Chicago Federal Reserve Bank to forecast the US recessions. However, all the recession signals (within the threshold intervals +0,2 ÷ -0,7) coincide with the official dating of the recessions. It limits the efficiency of regulation and business when this model is used.
Fig.3 Monthly dynamics for CFNAI-MA3 Index for the U.S. economy (Chicago Fed, 2018).
Grey columns – official duration of the US recessions (www.nber.org)
Yield Curve Inversion Method
As it was found empirically, the yield curve spread (or spread between 10- and 1-year of the US T-Bonds or between 10- and 2-year of the US T-Bonds) may serve as a reliable signal for future recessions. Fig.4 shows that the yield spread was negative just before all the US recessions since 1955. However, this model (as any model without theory) has many signals that are difficult to interpret unambiguously.
Fig.4 Monthly dynamics for yield spread: 1) between 10- and 1-year of the US T-Bonds (solid line);
2) between 10- and 2-year of the US T-Bonds (dotted line) Grey columns – official duration of the US recessions (www.nber.org)
Source: (Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis, https://fred.stlouisfed.org).
First, we can see the false signal of 1966 that is difficult to explain. Second, before 1980-th the recession deepening was coinciding with the yield curve inversion deepening (its bottom was coinciding with the trough of the recession). But the yield curve inversion was appearing and disappeared before starting points for the last three recessions (after 1980-th). We can explain it by changing the main principles of the Fed’s monetary policy (from Keynesian principles before 1980-th to monetarist ones after them), which affect the interest rates and bond yield directly. However, it remains unclear: how does future monetary policy can affect the yield curve inversion? Will the yield curve inversion appear after “quantitative easing” monetary policy (QE)?
Some researchers suppose that the yield curve method will not lose the ability to anticipate a recession even after an unusual monetary policy (QE). Others believe that this inversion would not appear at all, and, if it even appears, the new recession will not happen. H. Yellen supported this thought in her last speech as Fed Chairman. She supposes that the yield curve inversion may appear after tightening monetary policy, but it may not be a signal for a new recession.
Any generalization with the yield curve inversion method becomes complicated by the fact that this method may be more or less accurately used for recessions anticipation for the US economy. However, it loses its accuracy significantly when the recession forecasting for the German or British economy.
The US Recessions Anticipation Accuracy recap
Thus, we can summarize the common drawbacks of well-known models, as noted above:
1) No one model is general. Every model is valid for separate (specific) economies and
corresponding market conditions.
2) Every model generates false or/and missed signals.
3) If the signal is unambiguous, it will be generated too late to make regulation or business effective.
All the drawbacks provide permanent ambiguity and incompleteness of information used for decision-making.
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 Bear Stearns — New-York investment bank (founded May1, 1923).
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 Lehman Brothers — 4-th in size the US investment bank founded in 1850.
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