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Current Financial Conditions and Future Economic Activity

By James Kwak

David Leonhardt (hat tip Brad DeLong) discusses the risk of a double-dip recession. For Leonhardt, the main risks are the pending expiration of the fiscal stimulus and some of the Fed’s monetary stimulus measures, as well as continuing de-leveraging by households, which deprives the economy of its usual growth engine.

James Hamilton highlights a new financial conditions index developed by five economists — two from major banks and three from universities. The goal of the index is to estimate the impact of current financial variables on the future trajectory of the economy. For example, the level of current interest rates is likely to influence future economic outcomes. The paper evaluates several existing financial conditions indexes and finds that most of them show financial conditions returning to neutral in late 2009. It then describes a new index comprised of forty-four variables, which tends to do a better job of predicting economic activity than the existing indexes. (The authors admit that this is in part because they have the benefit of living through the recent financial crisis, which has shown the value of certain variables not included in previous indexes.)

So what?

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