January 2020

The Power of Narratives in Economic Forecasts

Steven A. Sharpe, Nitish R. Sinha and Christopher A. Hollrah

Abstract:

We apply textual analysis tools to the narratives that accompany Federal Reserve Board economic forecasts to measure the degree of optimism versus pessimism expressed in those narratives. Text sentiment is strongly correlated with the accompanying economic point forecasts, positively for GDP forecasts and negatively for unemployment and inflation forecasts. Moreover, our sentiment measure predicts errors in FRB and private forecasts for GDP growth and unemployment up to four quarters out. Furthermore, stronger sentiment predicts tighter than expected monetary policy and higher future stock returns. Quantile regressions indicate that most of sentiment's forecasting power arises from signaling downside risks to the economy and stock prices.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17016/FEDS.2020.001

PDF: Full Paper

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Last Update: January 09, 2020