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Economic Brief

July 2010, No. 10-07

How Useful Are Consumer Surveys as Macroeconomic Indicators?

Roy H. Webb

Most economic indicators attempt to summarize what happened at a particular time in the past. Consumer surveys, however, examine attitudes and are thus fundamentally different from other widely reported indicators. Some surveys, such as those that measure inflation expectations, have proven to be useful to economists and policymakers, while the evidence is more mixed for others, such as forecasts of consumer spending.

Additional Resources

Ang, Andrew, Geert Bekaert, and Min Wei. "Do Macro Variables, Asset Markets, or Surveys Forecast Inflation Better?" Federal Reserve Board of Governors Finance and Economics Discussion Series No. 2006-15.

Croushore, Dean. "Consumer Confidence Surveys: Can They Help us Forecast Consumer Spending in Real Time?" Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia Business Review, Third Quarter 2006, pp. 1-9.

Mehra, Yash P. and Elliot W. Martin. "Why Does Consumer Sentiment Predict Household Spending?" Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond Economic Quarterly, Fall 2003, vol. 89, no. 4, pp. 51-67.

Website for Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers

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