Measuring economic surprises. At a time when the media is full of predictions about the year ahead it was timely of a Washington Post blog to refer me to an intriguing measure of just how accurate — actually inaccurate — economic forecasts turn out to be.

It is a subject I have referred to many times in these snippets but I had not before seen the statistical proof that is contained in this index published by Bloomberg:

The Citigroup Economic Surprise Indices set out to be objective and quantitative measures of economic news. They are defined as weighted historical standard deviations of data surprises (actual releases vs Bloomberg survey median). A positive reading of the Economic Surprise Index suggests that economic releases have on balance beat the forecast consensus and a negative reading that they have undershot it.

The record is truly appalling. The index tells us clearly that the so-called experts don’t really have a clue.

Why banks and others keep employing people to produce meaningless forecasts is beyond me.

Go north young man. Forgive my parochialism but I once was Hobart smart. The Australian Bureau of Statistics today tells the sad story of how Tasmania has the oldest and most rapidly aging population of any state.

And the biggest contributor to Tasmania experiencing the largest increase in median age over the last 20 years, increasing by 7.8 years from 32.4 years in 1991 to 40.2 years in 2011, is the emigration of younger adults from Tasmania to the Australian mainland.

On the mainland it is Western Australia that is leading in the growth stakes.

Overall the ABS figures show that in the year to 30 June 2011 Australia’s population increased by 1.4% (320,800 people) to 22.6 million (22,620,600) people. Net overseas migration accounted for 53% of the growth for the year ending June 2011, with the remaining 47% due to natural increase (births minus deaths).

Net overseas migration continued to decline to the end of June 2011. The preliminary net overseas migration estimate for the year ending June 2011 (170,300 people) was 14% lower than that for June 2010 (198,300 people).

My Christmas contribution. NPR calls it “The weariest holiday song this side of ‘I’ll Be Home for Christmas’:

Holiday reading for Julia. A court in Russia’s Siberia is to decide on banning the Bhagavad Gita, based on complaints that the text, distributed there by Iskcon (the Hare Krishnas), apparently ‘advocates war’ and forms ‘extremist literature’. And in India they are getting quite upset about it with The Times of India declaring the “case reflects a deep mis-understanding of the Gita – and possibly severe anxieties within Russian society.”

In a recent interview to The Times of India, outgoing Delhi Metro chief E Sreedharan said the Gita was the ultimate ‘administrator’s handbook’, illuminating a calm and clear way forward through the pettifogging of relationships, desires and fears.

Perfect holiday reading for a Prime Minister!

And as for those Russians:

Peter Fray

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