Polls on Topical Issues

In addition to regular monthly surveys of economic forecasts, Consensus Economics also undertakes special surveys for long-term forecasts, quarter-by-quarter forecasts and many other economic-related topics. We set out below examples of three of our recently conducted special surveys.

1) Factors Affecting Exchange Rates

2) Trends in Productivity and Wages

3) Forecast Probabilities



In our August 2016 special survey of factors affecting exchange rates, we asked our panellists to rank the current importance of a range of different factors in determining exchange rate movements (against the US dollar, unless otherwise noted). Scores were assigned to each of the factors shown in the table below on a scale of 0 (no influence) to 10 (very strong influence). The consensus results are the averages of individual panellists' scores for each factor. Given that different currencies are influenced by a wide range of factors, we have limited the variables considered to a common list of six factors which we asked our panels to assess for every currency. In addition, we asked panellists to suggest, and rank, other factors which they felt to be of particular importance. The most frequently cited (if any) of these for each currency appears in the right-hand column.

Exchange Rates per US$, unless Otherwise Stated Relative Growth Inflation Differential Trade/
Current Account
Interest Rate Differentials
Short (Long)
Other Factors (Score)
G-7 & Western Europe
Euro 6.0 4.6 4.8 7.5 (5.3) 4.7 German + French elections (8.0)
Japanese Yen 4.8 5.1 5.7 6.7 (4.4) 5.7 China Economic Health (6.0) 
UK Pound 6.8 4.5 5.9 7.7 (4.8) 5.7 Politics (7.0)
Swiss Franc* 3.4 3.6 4.7 5.2 (3.9) 4.1 Safe Haven Demand (7.0)

Asia Pacific
Australian $ 4.8 4.8 3.5 6.8 (4.3) 3.3

Raw Material Prices (8.0)

New Zealand $ 5.0 4.5 4.3 7.3 (4.7) 2.5 Dairy Prices (9.0)
Singapore Dollar 5.3 4.1 4.6 5.7 (3.9) 5.4 MAS Policy (9.0)
Taiwan Dollar
5.6 3.4 4.6 4.2 (3.5) 6.8 Cross Strait Relations (6.0)

Eastern Europe
Czech Koruna* 5.6 4.1 6.0 5.0 (3.2) 3.8 Currency Cap (10.0)
Polish Zloty* 5.0 4.6 5.3 6.0 (5.8) 4.9 Political Risk Perceptions (8.0)  
Russian Rouble 4.4 5.0 6.1 5.0 (4.3) 4.4 Crude Oil Prices (10.0)

Latin America
Argentinian Peso 5.3 8.1 7.0 6.3 (3.5) 4.2 Agricultural Prices (9.0), Govt. Intervention (9.0)
Chilean Peso 5.3 4.5 6.6 2.9 (2.7) 2.2 Copper Prices (7.0), Investor sentiment (7.0)
Mexican Peso 5.5 4.2 6.8 6.8 (5.9) 4.8 Oil Price and Oil Production (8.0)
Peruvian Sol 4.2 3.8 6.7 4.1 (5.0) 2.5 Commodity Prices (8.0)

* Analysis refers to determinants of the exchange rate against the euro.

Exchange rates are clearly influenced by a wide range of different factors, and the importance of each varies both from country to country and, for any given currency, over time. The special survey (sample above) is an attempt to compare and rank the differing degrees of sensitivity with which different currencies respond to these various influences. In addition, as these influences are frequently pushing in different directions, it should also help to determine which factors are likely to dominate.

Trends in growth and inflation are closely watched in a climate of high volatility and speculation. US monetary tightening in 2016 has thus far been elusive, due to a lack of momentum in the economy. However, recent solid monthly employment readings continue to fuel speculation about a possible rate hike before year-end. Some countries in Latin America have been forced to raise rates or retain a bias toward monetary tightening to combat inflation, namely Colombia. Related currency strength, through yield seeking capital inflows, has raised the risk of FX intervention. Among the major countries, bond yields (which are inversely related to price) have dropped to levels that suggest economic difficulties ahead. Weak fundamentals and low fixed income returns, though, have not deterred capital flows to Japan. The yen has surged more than 15% in the year to date and some observers expect it to head toward ¥95 per US dollar in the near term. In Switzerland, where short term rates are negative, the willingness of investors to pay a country to hold their funds may partly reflect expectations about currency strength. In addition to the factors ranked at our request by panellists, we also asked for suggestions of others. The far right column in the table on the previous page shows only the most often cited or highly-ranked, with the exception of a few currencies for which two main factors were both frequently cited.

Source: Foreign Exchange Consensus Forecasts, August 2016.


In our August 2016 special survey of trends in productivity and wages, we asked for our panellists' projections for total employment growth and wage or employment costs between now and 2028, along with real and nominal GDP growth forecasts over the same period. Using indices derived from these projections, we have calculated forecasts for broad measures of productivity growth (real and nominal GDP per employee) and an indicator of unit wage costs (calculated by dividing the employment cost indices by the indices of real GDP per employee). Although some of the wage definitions used are imperfect measures for total compensation per employee, our calculated indices do provide a general indication of future trends in unit wage costs.

  - Annual Averages -
% change over previous year 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019-2023 2024-2028
Real GDP 2.4 2.6 1.5 2.3 2.3 2.2 2.1
Total Employment 1.6 1.7 1.7 1.4 1.1 1.0 1.0
Real Output (GDP) per Employee 0.7 0.9 -0.2 0.8 1.2 1.2 1.2
Employment Costs 2.1 2.1 2.3 2.8 2.9 2.9 3.0
Unit Wage Costs 1.4 1.3 2.5 2.0 1.7 1.7 1.8
Nominal GDP 4.2 3.7 2.9 4.3 4.5 4.3 4.2
Nominal Output per Employee 2.5 1.9 1.2 2.9 3.3 3.3 3.2

  - Annual Averages -
% change over previous year 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019-2023 2024-2028
Real GDP 1.6 1.7 1.6 1.2 1.4 1.3 1.2
Total Employment 0.9 0.8 1.1 0.7 0.6 0.4 0.3
Real Output (GDP) per Employee 0.7 0.9 0.5 0.5 0.8 0.9 0.9
Wages and Salaries per Employee 2.7 2.8 2.6 2.5 2.6 2.5 2.5
Unit Wage Costs 2.0 1.9 2.1 2.0 1.8 1.6 1.6
Nominal GDP 3.4 3.8 3.2 2.8 3.1 2.8 2.7
Nominal Output per Employee 2.5 3.0 2.1 2.1 2.4 2.4 2.4

The productivity conundrum plaguing the G-7 and Western Europe is evident in this month’s Productivity and Wages survey. Despite lacklustre activity in many countries, as well as concerns over long-term job creation, productivity growth [measured here as Real Output (GDP) per Employee] has softened noticeably in recent years. A worrying lack of capital investment is clouding the outlook going forward and, despite some employment gains, wage growth remains modest. With investment in IT down from its 1990s peak, the ‘virtuous cycle’ of productivity has slowed. This year is expected to be especially weak. The US and Japan should see negative productivity of -0.2% and -0.3%, respectively. In the US, a weak Q2 GDP report has set a downbeat tone for the year. Moreover, the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ most recent measure of non-farm labour productivity, Output per Hour, showed three consecutive quarters of decline. Q2 non-farm output per hour fell by -0.5% (q-o-q annualized), compared with -0.6% in Q1. Unit labor costs were high, at 2%, while our measure of unit wage costs is expected to double by 2.5% this year. Unlike GDP, the job market has been firm. However, sustained productivity weakness has meant that US workers are seeing depressed pay fundamentals. This, coupled with muted GDP growth, means that jobs going forward are in no way guaranteed. Increased automation is also a source of anxiety for workers in the OECD countries, especially as unit wage gains outstrip growth. For Japan, too, unit wage growth is outpacing both GDP and productivity. This country has long experienced productivity problems with its stagnant growth, low female participation rate and deflationary environment. Meanwhile, the Euro area’s productivity growth has been due to massive job cuts over the past 6-8 years rather than “strong value-added growth.” This, of course, is creating structural unemployment problems.

For further information, including economic data on other countries, see the complete study in Consensus Forecasts, August 2016.


In our January 2016 special survey of forecast probabilities, in addition to their central (most likely) forecasts in the consensus economic survey, we asked our panellists to assess the probabilities of a range of alternative outcomes for each of the listed variables, i.e. GDP forecasts and consumer prices in 2016, as well as for exchange rate forecasts (for the euro, the Japanese yen, the UK pound and the Canadian dollar) against the US dollar by the end of January 2016. This analysis is an attempt to quantify the risk that these economic indicators might turn out to be significantly higher or lower than individual forecasts currently suggest, and allows us to compile consensus probability distributions to identify those areas of greatest uncertainty in the economic outlook for the G-7 industrialized countries.


Average probability of the following exchange rates falling within the ranges shown Depreciation vs. US$
between survey date and end-Jan. 2017
  Appreciation vs. US$
between survey date and end-Jan. 2017
-23% or
-22% to
-13% to
+/-4% +5% to
+14% to
+23% or
Euro 1 6 26 45 17 4 1
Japanese Yen 1 5 24 48 17 4 1
UK Pound 0 3 16 44 29 7 1
Canadian dollar 1 4 17 48 22 6 1

euro us dollar exchange chart imageConsensus forecasts are mean averages of individual panellists' predictions of the performance of various indicators over a given time. However, most forecasters would also attach some probability to various – perhaps radically different – outcomes or scenarios. These probabilities provide a wider assessment of the risk attached to the consensus and are based on estimates of unexpected or extreme movements in key variables, such as exchange rates or commodity prices. These and other factors could alter a central forecast. Every year in January, we ask our panellists to supplement their central forecasts for GDP growth and inflation for the year ahead with a set of probabilities of the outcomes falling within specified ranges shown in the tables. The ranges differ from country to country and from variable to variable, but were chosen so that the central range (the middle column in the tables and charts) generally encompassed the consensus forecast from last month's survey.

We also show the probability distributions for oil prices as well as for the major forex cross rates of the G-7 currencies. Here, we ask for the probability of the percentage change in the exchange rate between now and January 2017 falling in seven comparable % ranges. Our panel anticipate a 33% chance of the euro falling by more than 4% against the US dollar by January 2017. The recent US interest rate rise should encourage capital into the US economy, while strength in the jobs market and business investment could help it become the fastest growing G-7 country in 2016. However, export-oriented companies are seeing profit margins squeezed by the strong dollar ... (continued in our January 2016 publication).


GDP Growth, %
2016 consensus = +1.4%

% Probability

< +0.5

+0.5 to

+0.9 to

+1.3 to

+1.7 to

+2.1 to

> +2.4

Consumer Price Inflation
2016 consensus = +0.8%

% probability
< -0.3


-0.3 to


+0.3 to

+0.8 to

+1.3 to

+1.8 to

> +2.2


US GDP Growth chart imageRecent 2016 GDP forecasts for the G-5 countries are on the decline. The US Federal Reserve finally went ahead in December 2015 and raised interest rates for the first time in 9 years. However, along with GDP growth concerns in the emerging markets and by recent turmoil in the Chinese stock market, the greenback has risen, impacting US trade competitiveness and pinning down inflation prospects. Slumping oil prices have negatively impacted on the industry, despite giving a fillip to consumer spending. German GDP forecasts have edged down, but record-low unemployment and solid wage growth have stimulated domestic demand, helping to balance out growth in the usually export-orientated economy. While GDP growth picked up in France in Q3, the Paris terrorist attacks may have helped to dim expectations somewhat. Commentators are concerned that individuals may avoid public places, suggesting a downturn in the tourist industry. The UK recovery has been heavily dependent on consumer spending, helped by falling unemployment and ultra-low inflation. Consumer price inflation is projected to have hit 0.0% in 2015 according to our latest poll, boosting individuals’ disposable income. 2016 price expectations have declined, too, slipping well below the Bank of England's 2% target. Japanese inflation has also moderated further as the economy struggles to boost activity after narrowly avoiding recession in Q3 2015. Inflation in much of Western Europe and the US continues to face downward pressure from tumbling oil prices. Brent and WTI spot rates slid to US$30 per barrel on our survey date.

For further information, including economic data on other countries, see the complete study in Consensus Forecasts, January 2016.