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Firm performance and macro forecast accuracy

Jun 2018
Working Paper
18-021
By  Mari Tanaka, Nicholas Bloom, Joel M. David, Maiko Koga
Ever since Keynes’ famous quote about animal spirits, there has been an interest in linking firms’ expectations and actions. However, empirical evidence has been limited due to a lack of firm-level panel data on expectations and outcomes. In this paper, we build such a dataset by combining a unique survey of Japanese firms’ GDP forecasts with company accounting data for 25 years for over 1,000 large Japanese firms. We find four main results. First, firms’ GDP forecasts are positively associated with their employment, investment, and output growth in the subsequent year. Second, both optimistic and pessimistic forecast errors lower profitability. Third, while over-optimistic forecasts lower measured productivity, over-pessimistic forecasts do not tend to have an effect on productivity. Overall, these results are stronger for firms whose performance is more sensitive to the state of macroeconomy. We show that a simple model of firm input choice under uncertainty and costly adjustment can rationalize there results. Finally, larger and more cyclically sensitive firms make more accurate forecasts, presumably reflecting a higher return to accuracy for these firms. More productive, older, and bank-owned firms also make more accurate forecasts, suggesting that forecasting ability is also linked to management ability, experience, and governance. Collectively, our results highlight the importance of firms’ forecasting ability for micro and macro performance.