MacroScope

Tight consensus on China’s growth rate not reflecting real range of opinion

AChina’s economy, even to a non-specialist given a few minutes to stop and think, is clearly extremely difficult to measure.

When your population is 1.4 billion and you are in the midst of an unprecedented government and credit-fuelled expansion in infrastructure on your way to developed economy status, there are plenty of things that may get overlooked.

This is a completely normal set of circumstances in any developing and rapidly-changing economy no matter what methodology is used. Enough to fill tomes has been written on China’s data measurement challenges by commentators, policymakers and academics, not to mention the whole question of whether GDP is a useful way of measuring how any economy is faring.

What is truly striking is the lack of variance of opinion on where growth is headed in a country that has just gone through one of the biggest credit binges in history, with the credit to GDP ratio up by nearly two-thirds over the past five years, since the global financial crisis set in.

The latest GDP growth figure, for Q2, came in at 7.5 percent, just 0.1 percentage point above the consensus. That is the growth rate the Chinese government is aiming for this year. The range of opinion was very narrow, from 7.2 percent to 7.6 percent.

India is in a cloud of economic optimism but its industrial data are in a permanent fog

Optimism the Indian economy will soon recover, despite no sign that it is anywhere near doing so, has increasingly led forecasters to overestimate industrial production growth.

Incessant official revisions to the data, after initial forecasts are proved wrong, also mean investors and companies don’t have a clear and timely view.

This too could be another thing holding back Asia’s third largest economy.

Still not thinking the very thinkable on Britain’s future

Mark these words. Not only is Britain going to avoid a triple-dip recession, but the economy won’t shrink again as far as the eye can see.

If that sounds ridiculously optimistic, don’t tell the more than 30 economists polled by Reuters last week, none of whom predict even a single quarter of economic decline from here on.

Even the Bank of England, not exactly famous these days for its accuracy in economic forecasting, has said for a long time that a quarter or two of contraction here and there is to be expected. That was underlined by Wednesday’s unexpected news some policymakers voted for more bond purchases this month.

The euro zone: choose your own adventure

Forecasts about the future for the euro zone economy are starting to resemble a multiple-choice novel. Are you an economist working for an Anglo-Saxon institution? Then turn to p.65 — “Recession for the euro zone”. A German bank? Go to p.80 — “Happy days are here again!”

That simplifies the case slightly, but there’s more than a grain of truth in it. We’ve noted repeatedly that predictions about the euro zone are coloured heavily by whether someone works for an employer based inside the currency union or not.

In the past, analysts have been reluctant to forecast outright contraction for major economies.

India inflation consistently tough to pin down

High inflation is a drag on economic growth in the world’s second most populous country and matters immensely to over 400 million people, or over a third of India’s total population, who struggle to earn enough to feed their families three meals a day.

The particularly volatile nature of inflation in India has confounded policymakers and small business owners and has left economists, who are often running complex statistical models based on a dearth of reliable data, with a poor forecasting record.

To be fair, predicting economic data can be pretty tough in a country where collecting and reporting national statistics is still in its infancy stage. Provisional numbers are often completely revised away.

U-turns aplenty in predicting U.S. jobs growth

 

The past year of forecasting U.S. payroll growth marks a bumpy road of U-turns on the timing of an elusive turning point to sustainable recovery, an analysis of Reuters polls shows.

In early 2011, an overwhelming majority of economists — 48 of 52 in the April poll and 38 of 46 in the May poll — said that turning point already had been reached.

More than a year later, it still seems a way off.

The U.S. economy added jobs at a monthly rate of 165,000 so far in 2012, far short of the 200,000 most say is representative of strong growth in a recovering economy.

U.S. jobs data marks gloomy hat-trick for economists

By Sarmista Sen and Sumanta Dey

 

Economists predicting jobs growth in the United States, or rather the lack of it, scored an unfortunate hat-trick on Friday – vastly overestimating the rise in payrolls for three consecutive months.

The U.S. economy added 69,000 jobs last month, less than half the Reuters median for a gain of 150,000 jobs and missing even the lowest forecast of 75,000 from nearly 80 economists .

Forecasters last achieved that feat between April and November 2008, when the actual NFP number consistently missed the lowest forecast in the survey, for eight consecutive months.

Philly Fed – the nightmare index economists can’t grasp

“Horrendous”

“Stink”

“Meltdown”

These are just a few of the (printable) words analysts have used to describe the August release of the Philadelphia Fed’s factory activity index.

And well they might — the Philly Fed has proven to be a nightmare indicator for economists. At -30.7 in August, the index came in far below the consensus forecast for a rise to +3.7 from July’s +3.2. Even the lowest forecast was only -10.

That’s probably one of the worst misses the Reuters polling team can recall in recent memory.

A very British excuse

This time it was the royal wedding. When the economy shrank unexpectedly late last year, it was the bad weather. If Britain’s economy again struggles to generate growth in the current quarter, perhaps it will be blamed on the new series of ‘The Apprentice’.

"Thanks for nothing!"

Britain’s economy grew 0.2 percent quarter-on-quarter between March and June, exactly in-line with the Reuters poll consensus. Perhaps the most interesting part of the GDP release statement was the Office for National Statistics’ claim that without special factors, including the royal wedding, growth could have hit 0.7 percent.

That would have taken the GDP index at market prices back above 100 points – its 2006 base level – for the first time since the recession, but as it happened, it fell just short, at 99.8.

Another shocker on the way for UK growth?

Could British economic growth figures for the second quarter mark another shocker for bank economists?

After the 0.5 percent contraction in the fourth quarter of last year that no-one foresaw, we remarked that economists seemed loath to spoil the party by predicting a negative figure.

Although some economic data did hint that a slight downturn was on the cards, no-one then was willing to stick their neck out and predict a contraction. In the end, the 0.5 percent quarter-on-quarter decline was a whole percentage point off the consensus for a 0.5 percent expansion.