Archive for the Category NGDP futures targeting


Gabe Newell contributes to Hypermind

I’d like to thank Gabe Newell (President of Valve Software) for very generously agreeing to directly contribute $10,000 to the Hypermind NGDP prediction market. You may recall that Mr. Newell made a similar contribution a few years ago, in our previous effort.  Note that some of the recently donated money is still working its way through the bureaucracy, but rest assured it will get there.  I hope to be able to announce a much larger prize total in the near future.  The goal is to boost trading volume.

In this previous post, I explained how you can also assist the prediction market project by contributing to the Mercatus Center.  I believe that this sort of contribution has tax advantages due to the non-profit status of Mercatus.  However I recently learned that Mercatus has a policy where researchers don’t publicly thank donors, as research and fundraising are kept separate.  Sorry about that misunderstanding.  That does not apply to direct donations to Hypermind, but AFAIK those are not tax deductible.

PS.  As I get older, things just seem to get more complicated.  But I’m working hard to simplify my life.  Last month I owned two rental properties. Now I have one.  Next month I’ll have zero.  Never become a landlord.

A major donation to boost the Hypermind NGDP market

I am very pleased to announce that Kenneth and Jennifer Duda have agreed to donate $50,000 to the Mercatus Center to help support the Hypermind NGDP prediction market project.  Ken Duda is the CTO of Arista Networks, a major Silicon Valley tech company.  Back in 2014, the Dudas supported the original NGDP prediction market, and more importantly were very generous donors to the Mercatus Center, which allowed for the creation of the Program on Monetary Policy. This is the program that supports the work that David Beckworth and I are engaged in.

As far as I know, Ken and Jennifer are the world’s leading philanthropists in promoting research on monetary policy reform–an area where technical improvements could be worth trillions of dollars (just watch how global stocks react to bad monetary policy decisions), as well as millions of jobs.

The earlier post initially left out some necessary information as to where to donate–apologies for that.  We have added options such as Bitcoin and PayPal, which were requested in the comment section.

I am very excited about this market.  The Dudas’ donation will eventually result in a big jump in the prize level, which should motivate more trading.  (If not, the few people who do trade will be very lucky.)  I anticipate more donations are coming in as well—I’ll keep you posted.  I’ll provide more specifics on prize money when the donation process is completed.

Relatively soon, there should be lots more $100 bills lying on Hypermind’s sidewalk. I don’t think I need to tell you guys what to do.  Pick them up!

PS.  I have a new Econlog post that responds to questions raised in the comment section of the previous request for donations post.

Requesting donations for a new Hypermind NGDP prediction market

Several years ago, I raised money for two experimental prediction markets, one at Hypermind and the other at iPredict. The iPredict market ran into problems and was unable to continue. The donated money was returned. Based on what I learned from that experiment, I’m ready to try again.

This time there will be only one market—Hypermind—and only one contract, a one-year growth rate contract, the growth rate of nominal GDP from Q1 2017 to Q1 2018. Because the one-year contract is of more macroeconomic interest, this time around I’d like to focus all our resources on that single contract. It will be called “U.S. Nominal GDP: Trump’s 1st year”, as it will be one way of thinking about the “reflation trade”, that is, the idea that Trump’s policies would boost both RGDP growth and inflation.

Mercatus has a bit over $10,000 to start the ball rolling. This will be sufficient to pay $5,000 to Hypermind to set up the prediction market, with the remaining $5,000 going to a prize fund to incentivize people to participate.

Our goal is to have many, many more participants than last time in order to really boost liquidity in what is an admittedly niche market. I think that a significant prize pool would bring people onboard, and would establish this kind of market as a credible mechanism going forward.

This is where you come in. The more money raised, the bigger the prizes offered to winners, and the more liquidity in the markets.

We need to raise money for this project because Hypermind traders cannot invest any of their own money. That aspect of the prediction market allows it to avoid running afoul of either SEC or anti-gambling regulations. No money is gambled, and no money is invested. Instead, money is donated, and through successful predictions, traders are able to win money. And the more money we can raise, the more and bigger prizes we can offer to participants.

People interested in donating money can send it to the (non-profit) Mercatus Center at the following address:

Mercatus Center at George Mason University
Attn: Dan Butler
3434 Washington Blvd, 4th Floor
Arlington, VA 22201

And of course we’ll accept wire transfers and the like. If people want to give online, they can go to and put “POMP” in the “Gift Instructions” box. Paypal donations can be made by making a gift to the email Bitcoin donations can be made through the button below.

Donations will be invested in this Mercatus project with Hypermind. All contributions are tax-deductible, and you will receive the appropriate receipt for your records. Note that a donation is not required to participate in the Hypermind market, nor does a contribution confer any special privileges. But you would be helping us attract more traders, hopefully leading to a more efficient and dynamic market.

Thank you in advance for your support.

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Attention iPredict donors

A couple of years ago I raised funds for two NGDP prediction markets, Hypermind and iPredict.  The money for Hypermind all came from Valve CEO Gabe Newell. A larger amount of money was raised for iPredict, from about 15 people. Unfortunately, iPredict had to end its experiment after a brief run. For the past year I’ve being making inquiries about a refund, and it’s finally paid off.  Here is the information we received from iPredict:

Here is how the donors can go about requesting a refund.

They should contact Iain Devon, Viclink Senior Account Manager, at Their donation has been held in NZ$ and will be refunded at the current USD/NZD exchange rate, which means they may receive less than their original donation due to change in exchange rates (assuming the donor wants to be refunded in US$). They should provide the details of the initial donation made, including date and value. Refunds will be issued via international bank transfer, so they should also be prepared to provide their bank account information.

I want to thank the people at Wellington Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand.  Their willingness to return the funds further cements New Zealand’s reputation as one of the least corrupt countries on Earth. If you forgot how much you donated, you might check your old emails to me.  I believe all the donors emailed me and informed me of their intentions.  I also probably have that info, if you need it.

During the period after iPredict failed, I vowed not to try to raise additional funds until the issue of refunds could be resolved.  Now that a resolution seems imminent, it’s time to think about future plans for NGDP prediction markets.  My inclination would be to go back to Hypermind, but with a bigger donation this time. I also feel like the annual market is the most macroeconomically useful, even though it is a long time to wait for a payoff.  (Say a 2018:Q1 over 2017:Q1 contract).  I believe we already have about $10,000 to work with, which is double what the annual market had back in 2015.  More money could be raised. With Trump in office, there might be some interesting policy shocks which could impact the market (although it’s also quite possible that NGDP expectations are not greatly affected—either result would be interesting.)  I’m also open to other markets, if someone has a suggestion.

PS.  Thanks to my colleague Ben Klutsey for working with the iPredict people to arrange this refund.

Binder and Rodrigue on NGDP targeting

Carola Binder and Alex Rodrigue have a very nice new paper out on monetary policy rules, for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.  Their paper suggests that either NGDP targeting or total wage targeting is likely to produce the best employment outcomes:

screen-shot-2016-10-06-at-12-44-14-pmI’d quibble a bit with the rankings, for instance I view the Taylor Rule as much superior to the gold standard, at least at positive interest rates.  But I do agree about the advantages of NGDP and wage targeting.  They discuss two types of wage targeting:

Nominal wage targeting can refer to targeting the wage rate (the price of labor) or targeting the quantity of wages paid (total nominal labor compensation, or the average hourly wage times the total number of hours worked). The former can be thought of as a special type of inflation targeting, since wages themselves are a price and wage growth is a type of inflation. Inflation-targeting central banks choose which specific price index to use for their inflation target; nominal wage targeting entails choosing a price index with 100 percent weight on wages. Mankiw and Reis (2003) find that “a central bank that wants to achieve maximum stability of economic activity should use a price index that gives substantial weight to the level of nominal wages.”

I tend to favor either targeting total wage payments, or the expected future level of average hourly wages, and they hold exactly the same view:

Nominal wage targeting has never been attempted, and its implementation could entail several challenges. First, there is no single wage rate. Policymakers would need to choose whether to target mean or median wages or some other measure. Second, nominal wages tend to respond to monetary policy with a lag. It may thus be preferable to target either expected future wages or total nominal labor compensation, which reacts more quickly.

In a slump, total wage payments fall faster than average wages per hour (due to wage stickiness).  So if you are not using a futures market approach, then aggregate wages may give a clearer signal.  However on theoretical grounds average hourly wages are slightly better, and hence to be preferred if the lag problem can be addressed with a futures market for average hourly wages.

Speaking of futures markets, they are skeptical:

Since NGDP responds slowly to monetary policy, Sumner proposes a futures contract approach that would allow monetary policy to respond to expected future NGDP instead of current NGDP.[80] The Fed would set up a futures market in which participants would bet as to whether the future NGDP growth rate would exceed or fall short of the Fed’s target. The Fed would then adjust the monetary base, just as it does today, according to the bets. So, if traders on this NGDP prediction market thought nominal growth would exceed the Fed’s target, the Fed would reduce the base, and vice versa.[81]

This approach is based on the notion that the market is an efficient forecaster, but it could be problematic for a number of reasons.  For instance, the futures market could be subject to manipulation by large speculators,[82] or trading volume could be too low. More broadly, the futures-market approach would drastically limit the Fed’s discretion; the Fed would play a passive role. We think it would be more effective for the Fed to commit to pursuing the NGDP target in the medium run, taking into account the Fed’s own forecasts of future NGDP in its policy decisions.

Not surprisingly, this is one area where I do not agree.  But before explaining why, let me point out that I would strongly support their (Svenssonian) suggestion of targeting the central bank’s own internal NGDP medium term forecast as a second best policy, as long as it was a part of the level targeting system.

Now for my response:

1. The lack of discretion could be viewed as a feature, not a bug.  If you want to preserve some discretion, however, my “guardrails” approach can be employed. Indeed even Bill Woolsey’s index futures convertibility approach allows for discretion, if the central bank sees one big speculator trying to manipulate the market.  (Keep in mind that all trades are with the central bank as the counter-party, so they’d know if someone were trying to manipulate the market.)  And of course manipulation would be almost impossible under the guardrails approach, where the central bank would promise to go short on 5% NGDP contracts, and long on 3% NGDP contracts.  And finally, the same manipulation possibilities apply to a gold standard and/or Bretton Woods regime.  But if you search the literature on these regimes, you will discover almost nothing on “market manipulation”, at least when rates actually are fixed and stable.  (Selling a currency before devaluation doesn’t count, as no one expects the central bank would default on NGDP futures.)  I think it’s a needless worry.

2.  Low trading volume is not a problem; indeed the system does not require any trading at all.  Here’s an analogy.  A gold standard would work fine as long as people were free to convert currency into gold at a fixed price, regardless of whether any such trading actually occurred.  It would simply mean that monetary policy is on target.  And if you still are concerned about trading, the central bank can always create trading by paying a high enough interest rate on margin accounts.

Even if NGDP futures markets are not to be used to set the policy instrument, there is NO EXCUSE for the failure of central banks to set up NGDP prediction markets, and subsidize trading.  This would provide essential high frequency data on NGDP expectations after important monetary policy events, and hence would be invaluable to monetary researchers.  Their failure to do so is gross dereliction of duty, which future generations will look back on in disbelief.  I would have loved to have such a market in the second half of 2008, exposing all their foolish decisions.

HT:  Dilip