The growth rates of real output and real investment are two macroeconomic time series which are particularly difficult to forecast. This paper considers the application of diffusion index forecasting models to this problem. We begin by characterizing the performance of standard forecasts, via recently-introduced measures of predictability and the forecast content, noting the maximum horizon at which the forecasts have value. We then compare diffusion index forecasts with a variety of alternatives, including the forecasts made by the OECD. We find gains in forecast accuracy at short horizons from the diffusion index models, but do not find evidence that the maximum horizon for forecasts can be extended in this way. Copyright © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.