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Are the bad economic vibes over?

Published 2 months ago • 2 min read

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How it works: Read the newsletter, then click a link at the bottom to make a prediction. You'll get scores based on how accurate your prediction is, compared to what actually happens.

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In this issue

  • Forecast: Will US consumer sentiment keep improving?
  • (Make a forecast with one click at the bottom of this email.)

Are the bad economic vibes over?

Americans felt better about the US economy in March than at any point in the last three years, according to the University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment survey. Will that trend continue?

If you’ve argued about economic “vibes” and “vibecessions” in the last year, it’s time to put your theorizing to the test and make a prediction: Will US consumer sentiment rise further in April, from its 3-year March high?

Here’s the case for continued consumer optimism, in a nutshell: The US added more than 300,000 jobs in March—far exceeding expectations. While that might temper the Fed’s eagerness to cut interest rates, it indicates that the job market remains strong. Wages are growing, unemployment is low, and inflation has fallen precipitously.

On the other hand, prices remain high: the rate of inflation may be falling but prices overall are still much higher than they were a few years ago. Groceries cost 25% more than they did before the pandemic. Rental prices are no longer exploding, but in most places they aren’t falling either. And gas prices—while down from their mid-2022 highs—have ticked up since the start of the year:

The Michigan consumer sentiment survey asks five questions, some about current conditions—Are you better or worse off financially than a year ago?—and some about the future. One of those future questions looks as far out as five years:

“Which would you say is more likely—that in the country as a whole we'll have continuous good times during the next five years or so, or that we will have periods of widespread unemployment or depression?”

Nate Silver pointed out in February that US consumers are less optimistic about the future, even as they’re growing more optimistic about their finances and the current state of the economy.

That does open the door to a vibes-based aspect to this consumer sentiment measure: Even if the economy improves, sentiment can be dragged down if Americans are worried that things will get worse soon.

Forecast

Will the preliminary April Index of Consumer Sentiment be higher than the final March index of 79.4?

​Very likely (~90% chance)

Likely (~70%)

Uncertain (~50%)

Unlikely (~30%)

Very unlikely (~10%)

Bonus trivia: Which of these foods saw the biggest percentage DECREASE in price in 2023? Bacon, coffee, or eggs?

(Make a forecast by clicking a link above and you'll get to answer this trivia question.)

Just want to make a quick forecast? Click a link above and you're done! Your forecast will be recorded.

Or, click a link and then complete the survey. You can provide your reasoning.

Deadline: Make a forecast by 9am ET Tues. April 9.

Resolution criteria: This question will resolve based on the April preliminary sentiment data, published April 12, not the final data published later in the month. And it will be compared to the final value for March, which is 79.4. Data is here; an explanation of the metric is here.

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