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Latest Issue

The US Dollar and the Cone of Uncertainty

December 22, 2014

Currently we have an international monetary non-system. Nobody has to follow any rules. Everybody does what they consider is in their own short-term best interest. The real difficulty is: What is in their short-term interest – for example, following ultra-easy monetary policy – could well backfire somewhere. It might be not in their long-term best interest. And as the easy monetary policy influences the exchange rates, it influences other countries. Almost every country in the world is in easing mode, following the Fed, and we have absolutely no idea how it will end up. We are in absolutely unchartered territory here.

– William S. White, former Chief Economist, Bank for International Settlements, in an interview for Finanz und Wirtschaft

I visualize this process [of forecasting the future] as mapping a cone of uncertainty, a tool I use to delineate possibilities that extend out from a particular moment or event. The forecaster’s job is to define the cone in a manner that helps the decision maker exercise strategic judgment. Many factors go into delineating the cone of uncertainty, but the most important is defining its breadth, which is a measure of overall uncertainty.

Drawing a cone too narrowly is worse than drawing it too broadly. A broad cone leaves you with a lot of uncertainty, but uncertainty is a friend, for its bedfellow is opportunity – as any good underwriter knows. The cone can be narrowed in subsequent refinements. Indeed, good forecasting is always an...

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