This paper presents a new approach to combining the information in point and density forecasts from the Survey of Professional Forecasters (SPF) and assesses the incremental value of the density forecasts. Our starting point is a model, developed in companion work, that constructs quarterly term structures of expectations and uncertainty from SPF point forecasts for quarterly fixed horizons and annual fixed events. We then employ entropic tilting to bring the density forecast information contained in the SPF’s probability bins to bear on the model estimates. In a novel application of entropic tilting, we let the resulting predictive densities exactly replicate the SPF’s probability bins. Our empirical analysis of SPF forecasts of GDP growth and inflation shows that tilting to the SPF’s probability bins can visibly affect our model-based predictive distributions. Yet in historical evaluations, tilting does not offer consistent benefits to forecast accuracy relative to the model-based densities that are centered on the SPF’s point forecasts and reflect the historical behavior of SPF forecast errors. That said, there can be periods in which tilting to the bin information helps forecast accuracy.
We develop a model that permits the estimation of a term structure of both expectations and forecast uncertainty for application to professional forecasts such as the Survey of Professional Forecasters (SPF). Our approach exactly replicates a given data set of predictions from the SPF (or a similar forecast source) without measurement error. Our model captures fixed horizon and fixed-event forecasts, and can accommodate changes in the maximal forecast horizon available from the SPF. The model casts a decomposition of multi-period forecast errors into a sequence of forecast updates that may be partially unobserved, resulting in a multivariate unobserved components model. In our empirical analysis, we provide quarterly term structures of expectations and uncertainty bands. Our preferred specification features stochastic volatility in forecast updates, which improves forecast performance and yields model estimates of forecast uncertainty that vary over time. We conclude by constructing SPF-based fan charts for calendar-year forecasts like those published by the Federal Reserve.