Assessing the Business Outlook Survey Indicator Using Real-Time Data

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Every quarter, the Bank of Canada conducts quarterly consultations with businesses across Canada, referred to as the Business Outlook Survey (BOS). A principal-component analysis conducted by Pichette and Rennison (2011) led to the development of the BOS indicator, which summarizes survey results and is used by the Bank as a gauge of overall business sentiment. In this paper, we examine whether data vintages matter when assessing the predictive content of the BOS indicator and individual BOS questions and whether the BOS is a better indicator of revised or unrevised macroeconomic data. As an indicator of business sentiment in the context of monetary policy, the reliability of the BOS is essential, and it is crucial to understand whether the signals it sends are best interpreted for early-released or revised data. For this purpose, we use different methods of forecasting that take into account the real-time perspective of the data. Results from the different methods show that the BOS content is informative regardless of data revisions. However, in real time, the BOS indicator and individual BOS questions are found to produce better nowcasts of first-released data or partially revised data than of latest-available data. This is particularly important in the case of growth in real business investment. In fact, because revisions to real business investment are more volatile than revisions to real gross domestic product (GDP), the choice of data vintages when assessing the ability of the BOS to forecast growth appears to be more important for real business investment than for real GDP.