Forecaster of the Month: Economist Jim O’Sullivan lets his numbers do the talking

Forecaster of the Month: Economist Jim O’Sullivan lets his numbers do the talking

14 Dec    Finance News
Brad Trent
Jim O’Sullivan

Economist Jim O’Sullivan has a lot of smart things to say about the U.S. economy and where it’s going, but right now he’s going keep quiet and let his forecasts do the talking for him. O’Sullivan, who won his record 24th Forecaster of the Month contest for the U.S. economic data released in November, has gone silent temporarily.

At the beginning of December, he joined TD Securities as chief U.S. macro strategist after seven years as chief U.S. economist for High Frequency Economics. Fittingly, no one saw it coming except for Jim.

In those seven years at HFE, he won MarketWatch’s monthly forecasting contest 15 times. We run the contest to honor those forecasters who are the most accurate at predicting the high-frequency data that move markets and the Fed.

O’Sullivan declined to be interviewed for this article, saying he needs some time with his new colleagues at TD before commenting publicly.

He’s leaving his old job on a high note, with the first-place finish in November after coming in third in October and fourth in September.

He’s dominated our contest since its inception in 2003. He — in conjunction with Maury Harris, his boss at UBS at the time — won the second contest we ever ran and he never looked back. He has won the Forecaster of the Year award an incredible eight times in a row and 11 times overall.

As of the end of November, he’s in a neck-and-neck three-way race for the 2019 Forecaster of the Year award with Ryan Sweet of Moody’s Analytics and Christophe Barraud of Market Securities. Mostly likely, it will go down to the last indicator of the year: durable goods orders.

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Coincidentally durables was one of the forecasts that put O’Sullivan in the winner’s circle in November. He was the only one of 40 forecasters to predict that orders would rise. The MarketWatch consensus called for a 1.1% drop, but the Census Bureau’s preliminary release surprised almost everybody with a 0.6% increase (since revised to 0.5%). O’Sullivan had 0.3%.

O’Sullivan’s Forecast Number as reported*
ISM 49.5% 48.3%
Nonfarm payrolls 60,000 128,000
Trade gap -$52.4 billion -$52.5 billion
Retail sales 0.4% 0.3%
Industrial production -0.7% -0.8%
Consumer price index 0.4% 0.4%
Housing starts 1.290 million 1.314 million
Durable goods orders 0.3% 0.6%
Consumer confidence index 128.5 125.5
New home sales 715,000 733,000
*Subject to revision

He had five other forecasts that were among the 10 most accurate in our sample survey: Consumer price index, industrial production, new-home sales, the trade gap, and retail sales.

The runners up in the November contest were Seth Carpenter’s team at UBS, Andrew Hollenhorst of Citigroup, Pat O’Hare at, and Joshua Shapiro of MFR.

The MarketWatch median consensus published in our Economic Calendar includes the predictions of the 15 forecasters who have earned the most points in our contest over the past 12 months, plus the forecast of the most recent winner of the monthly contest.

The economists in our consensus forecast are: Ryan Sweet of Moody’s Analytics, Jim O’Sullivan of TD Securities (formerly at High Frequency Economics), Christophe Barraud of Market Securities, Seth Carpenter’s team at UBS, Andrew Hollenhorst of Citigroup, Ian Shepherdson of Pantheon Macro, Michelle Girard’s team at NatWest Markets, Richard Moody of Regions Financial, Michael Feroli of JPMorgan Chase, Lewis Alexander’s team at Nomura Securities, Lou Crandall of Wrightson ICAP, Stephen Stanley of Amherst Pierpont Securities, Jan Hatzius’s team at Goldman Sachs, Chris Low of FHN Financial, and Michelle Meyer’s team at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

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