We analyze four economic sentiment indicators for the German economy regarding their ability to forecast economic activity. Using cross correlations and Granger causality tests we find that the ifo business expectations (ifo), the Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) and the ZEW Indicator of Economic Sentiment (ZEW) lead the yearon-year growth rate of German industrial production by five months. Taking into account the publication lag of industrial production this lead is even larger. On the contrary, the European Commission’s Economic Sentiment Indicator (ESIN) does not exhibit a lead but rather seems to coincide or even lag economic activity. Analyzing lead/lag structures among the indicators we find that the ZEW indicator leads the ifo business expectations significantly by one month and that the latter has a onemonth lead over the PMI. Out-of-sample forecast evaluations suggest that both ifo and ZEW provide the best forecasts for industrial production among the three indicators ifo, PMI and ZEW. It is found that the ZEW indicator performs better than the ifo and PMI over the whole sample (Jan. 1994 – Mar. 2002) and especially over horizons from six to twelve months. The ifo expectations predict better at shorter horizons (up to three months) and is superior to the ZEW and PMI indicator when a shorter sample (Jan. 1998 – Mar. 2002) is regarded.


leading indicators, Germany, ifo, zew, PMI, ESIN