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Amazing Chart: Alan Greenspan's Laugh Is the Best Housing Bubble Indicator

contributors@theatlantic.com (Derek Thompson)

In the infamous transcript of the Federal Reserve's first meeting in 2006, the word "[Laughter]" appeared at least 45 times. In once case, Fed Chair Alan Greenspan mocked his fellow economists' ability to predict the future, and the board laughed. Two years later, the global economy fell apart due to a housing meltdown that many Fed economists noted, but discounted. I counted the top ten most ironic laugh lines of the meeting here.

The Daily Stag Hunt did one better: It counted the word "[Laughter]" in every Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) transcript between 2001 and 2006 -- the bubble years. Then he graphed the results.

Does that picture remind you of something? Here's a look at home price between 2001 and 2006:

Pull back the lens, and you see what happened to home prices when the laughter stopped:

FOMC laughter: Totally random incidence of economic giggling, or the very best coincident indicator we have? You be the judge.

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