Economic Forecaster of the year looks ahead to 2014


What are some big ideas you would like to see implemented in the next 12 months that would change the world?

That's a big question…world peace, no more terrorism, racial harmony, eradicating poverty…those would be good starts! Unfortunately, there are limits to what is likely to change along those lines the next 12 months.

More specifically for economy-related policies, the answer varies a bit depending on what part of the world you are talking about. Europe needs to accelerate the recapitalization of the banking system. That could mean using public funds, but funding can be structured such that taxpayers will make a profit if the plan succeeds. Japan should open its doors to immigrants to offset the shrinkage in its labor force due the aging of the population. The U.S. also needs some immigration reform. The U.S. also has some budget challenges relating to the aging of the population, although they are more for the next few decades than the next few years. On the budget, after recent debt-limit and government shutdown sagas, perhaps the main hope for our leaders in Washington is simply that they first "do no harm." More generally, countries everywhere can undoubtedly do more to facilitate ongoing globalization. In my view, globalization's positives greatly outweigh the negatives, but inevitably there are losers as well as winners. That increases the need for education and training initiatives to avoid leaving some individuals behind.

Why did you decide to become an economist?

When I went to Trinity College Dublin it was originally to do business studies generally rather than economics specifically, but as an academic subject economics turned out to be a lot more interesting. It is at the center of the business cycle and macro trends, ultimately driving financial markets, which, in turn, feed back into the economy, affecting Main Street as well as Wall Street. For me, economics is not just about the latest market-moving numbers and it is not just theoretically interesting – it is both.

What excites you about your job?

I write a weekly report, a daily report and even intra-day comments on economic data as they are released. I also meet with lots of thought-provoking clients. My job is a combination of making sense of trends as they unfold as well as forecasting what the data are going to show in advance. I generally enjoy all parts of the job, but, in terms of excitement, the best part is probably making a non-consensus forecast and being right. Inevitably, I am wrong a lot as well, but the goal is to be right more often than you are wrong!

* Jim O'Sullivan is Chief U.S. Economist at High Frequency Economics, an independent economics research firm. He forecasts and analyzes macroeconomic developments and policy actions driving financial markets.

According to MarketWatch, he is "the best high-frequency economic forecaster in America." He was MarketWatch Forecaster of the Year for 2004, 2006, 2008, 2011, 2012 and 2013, six of the 10 years since the award was created. Ranking is based on accuracy in projecting U.S. economic indicators, with virtually all Wall Street economists tracked.

Prior to joining High Frequency Economics in June 2012, O'Sullivan was Chief Economist at MF Global. He was Senior U.S. Economist at UBS from 2001 to 2009. O'Sullivan began his career at J.P. Morgan in 1985, where he authored the U.S. section of Global Data Watch, the firm's flagship publication. He was the editor and lead author of Data Decoder: An Investor's Guide to the U.S. Economy, a guidebook for tracking the U.S. economy, published in 2002.

O'Sullivan earned an M.A. in economics from Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. He holds a B.A. in economics from Trinity College in Dublin, where he was named a Scholar of the University.

Jim lives in New York with his wife Margaret Molloy and his two sons Finn and Emmet.