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After the introduction to economic indicators in section : macroeconomic forecasting through economic indicators, this section will look at the possibilities of predicting the recession starting in December 2007 using these indicators. Again it is important to remember that as this paper is written ex. post with revised data and a broad understanding of what went wrong1, it could easily be pointed at numerous of relatively detailed and complicated indications that something was fundamentally wrong with the US economy ahead of the recession.

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There has long been something appealing for economists about the idea that the economy may behave with the same mathematical predictability of scientific laws such as Newton’s laws of motion. Newton’s laws reduce the whole complex, teeming, physical universe to three simple, reliable mathematical relationships. Is it possible to find similar relationships in the complex, changing world of markets?

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Markets and firms


Alfred Marshall (1842–1924)


1776 Adam Smith explains how large firms can lower unit costs through labor division.

1848 John Stuart Mill suggests that only large firms can adapt successfully to certain business changes, and that this can lead to the creation of natural monopolies.

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Modern complex economies involve the interactions of large numbers of people and organizations. These economic agents fall into one of three categories: business, households, government, and the rest-of-the-world. Economists find it useful to think of these groupings as sectors of the economy. Let's look at each of these sectors in turn: