Charlie Nelson’s Forecasting Track Record
Charlie Nelson, Managing Director of Foreseechange, has a track record for accurate forecasts of retail sales, new vehicle sales, and other variables over the past 15 years.
"Nelson is one of Australia's most respected forecasters of consumer behaviour and spending patterns. Why is he respected? Because most of his forecasts come true"
Neil Shoebridge, Business Review Weekly, November 13-19, 2003, page 62.
But quite a few of his forecasts have been contrary to the prevailing views of the experts at the time:
New Vehicle Sales
At the start of 1998, the automotive industry was forecasting between 700,000 and 715,000 new vehicle sales for 1998. This followed record sales of 722,427 sales in 1997. But Charlie forecast that sales would be between 770,000 and 820,000, a figure that was considered to be staggering. This was reported in the Business Review Weekly of January 26 1998 by Bill Tuckey. The CEO of one automotive company told Bill Tuckey that he did not know what Charlie was smoking but he wanted some too. This was translated to “I would like to know the brand of tea in the tea leaves they were reading, because I’ll start buying it.”
The sales figure for 1998 was 807,669!
In January 2002, Charlie told Bob Jennings of drive.com.au that the large family car was under pressure due to a fall in the proportion of households with young families – a combination of deferral by people in their 20’s and the large Baby Boomer generation becoming empty nesters (www.drive.com.au/editorial/ArticleDetail.aspx?ArticleID=3035). Higher petrol prices were just reinforcing that downward trend. Sales of large passenger vehicles in 2001 were 196,000, falling to 136,000 in 2006 and to 102,000 in 2009. Despite this prediction, all four local manufacturers produced new models of large cars in the mid-2000’s. One of these, the Mitsubishi 380, was launched in 2005 and dumped in 2008. The company spent $600 million on the car.
Recovery from the Global Financial Crisis
In May 2009, the Australian Federal Budget predicted recession in the year ahead and unemployment rising to 8.5%. This was in line with majority economic forecasts, indeed some were more pessimistic but very few were more optimistic.
One of the optimists was Charlie Nelson. Even before that budget, on 30 April 2009, Harold Mitchell wrote in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald that Charlie Nelson had told him that the worst was already over (The Age, Business Day, page 2). And so it proved to be. Australia did not experience a recession and unemployment peaked at less than 6%. Furthermore, Harold Mitchell noted that Charlie had anticipated an economic slowdown in late 2008 due to a confluence of three factors, of which two were global and one was local.
As noted by The Australian Financial Review on 11 March 2010 (page 61) in a review of the very poor economic forecasting performance in 2009, both the Reserve Bank and the Treasury stated that an optimistic forecast (such as Charlie’s) would not have been viewed as being credible.
Charlie has applied his talent for pattern recognition, statistical analysis, and his broad general knowledge to identify a major influence on long-term rainfall cycles in southeast Australia, especially Melbourne and the Murray Darling Basin. This is an 18.6 year cycle of the moon, a factor which has eluded the experts. He has made a submission to the 2009 House of Representatives Industry, Science and Innovation Committee enquiry into long-term meteorological forecasting in Australia on this subject (http://www.aph.gov.au/house/committee/isi/weather/index.htm). His updated and extended research on this subject can be read at http://www.charlienelson.com/moonrain.pdf. By September 2009, he had identified another natural factor which influences rainfall in Australia and was able to predict that the drought would not last much longer.
Since then, there has been a remarkable recovery from drought. In 2010, Melbourne received 776.8 mm which is 20% higher than the long-term average and the best calendar year total since 1996.
This was a surprise to the Bureau of Meteorology even in October 2010 - in Special Climate Statement 22, issued on 1 October 2010, BOM discussed Australia’s wettest September on record in 2010. With regard to Melbourne, the statement said:
Although 2010 has been the wettest year in Melbourne since 2005, January-September rainfall has still been 35mm below normal, and it is likely that 2010 will be a fourteenth consecutive year of below average rainfall for the city.
The Bureau was clearly expecting no more than average rainfall, 184 mm, for the October to December period but Melbourne actually received 345.4 mm, 80% more than average!
All of southeastern Australia has recovered from drought and in 2010 the Murray Darling Basin had its highest rainfall on record!
As at the end of June 2011, the recovery in Melbourne is even more remarkable. The 12 months to the end of May 2011 was the wettest 12 month period (984 mm) since the 12 months ending October 1955 (1,026.9 mm). During the first six months of 2011, Melbourne received 459.4 mm which is higher than the average of 308.3. By comparison, the first six months of 2010 received only 283 mm and the first six months of 2009 received only 127 mm (the driest first six months ever recorded). The 459.4 mm for the first six months of 2011 is more than received in the whole year in each of 2006 to 2009.
Charlie’s Approach to Forecasting
Charlie attributes his success to the use of econometric modeling tempered by an empirical approach to analysis, rather than being hidebound by theory. More information about Charlie is available at www.charlienelson.com.