INDICATORS: Forecasting Self-Taught

Economist W.S. Jevons astounded the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1878 by postulating that ups and downs in the economy were caused by sunspot cycles, which he said governed agricultural cycles. Economic science has advanced notably since then, and forecasters now focus on more down-to-earth indicators—like housing starts, manufacturers' new orders and retail sales (which according to the most recent weekly report ran 11% ahead of a year ago). Yet countless Americans have their personal systems for handicapping the economy. Their idiosyncratic indicators are sometimes as reliable as the official measures.

Take Mickey Feldstein's Foolproof Pawnshop Index....

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